Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Health of Fathers

For all of the social and cultural mumbo-jumbo that constitutes the bedrock of this blog, I'm not really a cultural-studies kind of guy. My classical training (so to speak) is in biology, and I cut my teeth as a science and medicine writer. So I was beyond thrilled when a reader flagged this blog post that mentions a study out *today* (abstract only, sorry) in the enormously influential Journal of the American Medical Association about fatherhoods. In a commentary, Dr. Craig Garfield from Northwestern and two colleagues tackle the subject of "Fatherhood as a Component of Men's Health."

They raise an excellent point: though there can be little doubt that fatherhood has an effect on health -- for good and bad -- there has been next to no research quantifying that effect, and no one has even made much of an effort to gather data on fatherhood that can be analyzed for clues.

This isn't indulgent navel-gazing, either: these researchers don't want knowledge for knowledge's sake, they think information on the link between fatherhood and health can give doctors information that can help dads to live healthier immediately.
The central rationale for a specific focus on fatherhood as it relates to health is that information about men's roles and experiences as fathers can be helpful to physicians in their clinical interaction with men who are parents today. ... For example, men in early fatherhood [that's me --rD], advice for balancing work and family demands and preventive health concerns may be most clinically relevant [yup --rD]."
The list a series of common-sense ways to expand the scope of men's health to include dads, including some ways to better capture fatherhood in research. It's an interesting concept (and one that applies across the board to all parents, regardless of sex), and I'm curious to see it explored more. Obviously, I've staked my claim: at-home dads are wicked healthy. But I'd love to see more research supporting that.

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