The month of June holds a special place in my heart. Not only my Wedding Anniversary, the first day of summer and "Juneteenth" (June 19th), which commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement, but most importantly, June is Men's Health Month. The idea of Men's Health Month is to enhance the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among boys, men and fathers. This month gives health care providers, policy makers, the media, and individuals an opportunity to encourage men and boys to seek regular health guidance and early treatment for disease and injury.
June 11th -17th celebrates Men's Health Week (MHW) followed up with Father's Day. MHW offers a great opportunity to remind men, expectant fathers and fathers to focus on their wellbeing and to develop life-long health routines. One suggested pathway to promote the health and longevity of males is to develop a preconception care framework into a life course health and wellness model. Employing the major concepts (health promotion, risk assessment and clinical and psychosocial intervention) of preconception care for men outlined by the CDC Select Panel on Preconception Care will help to ensure that all men develop a reproductive life plan, while promoting health and decreasing risk behaviors. Having a reproductive life plan will ensure that all pregnancies are planned and at the same time help to prepare men for fatherhood. As we celebrate fathers in June, there are also important educational opportunities that can be built into the month to help improve not just men's health but also family and children health. We might consider June as an opportune time to raise awareness for the important role that men and expectant fathers play in improving pregnancy outcomes.
Recent efforts around father involvement have ignited increasing public and academic interest. In 2009, President Obama started a National Conversation on Responsible Fatherhood and Strong Communities and created the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships is helping in coordinating the Federal Government's fatherhood policy and has launched a national Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative to encourage responsible fatherhood and strengthen our nation's families. Many of these recent efforts lend support to the importance of fathers in families. However, much still needs to be done to raise public awareness for paternal involvement in pregnancy and family health.
In 2009, The Commission on Paternal Involvement in Pregnancy Outcomes (CPIPO) was assembled with funding from the Office of Minority Health in the Department of Health and Human Services. CPIPO is a trans-disciplinary working group of scholars and public health professionals with a goal of raising awareness for paternal involvement in pregnancy and family health by reframing debates, informing research, policies and clinical to focus more on the involvement of the expectant father in pregnancy outcomes. In a Congressional Hill Briefing in May 2010, CPIPO released 40 best and promising recommendations for improving research, policy, and practice on paternal involvement in pregnancy outcomes. Consequently, these recommendations have set the agenda for health care organizations, researchers, and practitioners to increase knowledge and awareness for paternal involvement in pregnancy and child health by addressing barriers directly and calling for solutions to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in pregnancy outcomes.
Since then, several federal agencies have formed inter-agency working-groups and convened forums to address the role men and expectant fathers play in pregnancy and family health. One example is an upcoming National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Health Disparities Seminar Series entitled: "Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Pregnancy Outcomes: Exploring the Role of Paternal Involvement" on July 16, 2012. The purpose of this workshop is to address prospective father's role in pregnancy outcomes and identify gaps and barriers to research on this subject. The workshop will take a trans-disciplinary approach in discussing how paternal involvement can impact positive pregnancy outcomes. We are likely to see many of these types of forums as we increase public awareness regarding the role men and fathers play in family health.
Finally, men's Health Month can be can be particularly critical for expectant fathers as a great window of opportunity to address their own health and at the same time positively influence their pregnant partner or spouse by encouraging healthy behaviors and reducing stress. As we celebrate men and fathers this month across the country with screenings, health fairs, media appearances, and other health education and outreach activities, let us remember that men and fathers can also have a positive impact on family health.
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Jermane Bond, PhD is a Research Associate and Director of the Commission on Paternal Involvement in Pregnancy Outcomes in the Health Policy Institute at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in the District of Columbia. He is an Editorial Board Member of the American Journal of Public Health and Reproductive Systems & Sexual Disorders, a member of the American College of Epidemiology and is honored as a Senior Advisor and Editor, Health Power for Minorities, LLC; Advisory Board Member, The Boys Initiative. Dr. Bond lives in the District of Columbia with his wife and three children.