The Importance of Fathers in Preventing Obesity in Their Children
Developing WIC Resources for Latinx Fathers by Carlos Penilla and Patricia B. Crawford
It is estimated that 42% of the over 9.7 million participants in The Special Supplemental Food Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and children (WIC) are Latinx. WIC successfully improves low-income Latinx children’s health status by both promoting breastfeeding during the first six months of a child’s life and supporting consumption of healthful supplementary foods. Increased involvement of fathers in the WIC program’s outreach has the potential to increase the beneficial impact that the program has on young children and their families. The majority (66%) of Latinx children live in two-parent families and a significant number live in single-father households. It follows that Latinx fathers, as well as mothers, play a role in child-feeding and, similar to mothers, they may face many structural and environmental obstacles to promoting healthful behaviors among their children. WIC is welcoming of diverse families, but could be more explicit about including fathers in order help low-income Latinx men feel more welcome in what may often be viewed as an agency designed for women and children. Therefore, taking steps and developing procedures to encourage full access to WIC services by Latinx fathers may encourage their participation and, by so doing, support WIC goals for the nutrition of children and their families.
WIC should consider action to better engage Latinx fathers, and to develop materials that more explicitly integrate the role of Latinx fathers. Specifically, WIC should:
Develop marketing and outreach materials and approaches that clearly illustrate WIC’s inclusive work with diverse families and that emphasize the important role of all fathers, including single fathers, in children’s nutrition and health. Current strategies may inadvertently over-emphasize the mother’s role and influence within the household without adequately addressing the father’s important role.
Develop resources that explicitly address the needs of diverse Latinx fathers, including single fathers and fathers in same-sex couples. Educational materials could be made explicit about the key role of Latinx fathers in promoting healthy eating, including preventing obesity, as well as how WIC will support their culturally-based parenting practices.
Improve scheduling and outreach that accommodates the needs of employed Latinx fathers with varied work schedules. Low-income Latinx fathers often have more than one job and may not be available during WIC’s regular business hours.