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Healthy Dads Wanted
When it comes to men being healthier, sometimes it’s our children who can become our biggest motivator. I am proud to be part of the Daddy’s Little Girl Health Challenge from the GrassROOTS Community Foundation. This extraordinary health initiative is a call to action for dads that kicked off Father’s Day 2013 and continues throughout the year.
This is a little of my own story with my daughter and how our ‘healthy time’ teaches me so much.
For our first activity, my daughter and I were going on a walk around the block as a type of low-impact exercise to get the blood flowing. We started walking and then started talking. By the time we were done we had a completed a health education lesson on substance use, self-medicating and healthy decision-making. Earlier we were in a local fast-food restaurant (I know, I know “fast food is not healthy” – we just ordered fries because we needed to use the rest room and felt guilty about not ordering anything). When her mother took her to the rest room a “patron” was being removed after an employee felt she was spending too much time in the restroom. As she was being escorted out, her drug use paraphernalia fell out. This sparked the conversation and was one of those real life-learning opportunities that are much more effective than in a classroom curriculum.
The next week we sought to step up our game and instead of a long walk, my daughter and I decided we were going for a jog. We quickly realized that instead of one long smooth jog, it would instead be a series of starts and stops along the one-mile jaunt.
Note to self: Start exercising more.
We got to a stop light at a large intersection where the crosswalk gives you about 5 seconds to get across. I told her to pick up the pace as we were crossing and she darted past me with gazelle like speed. I am huffing and puffing and she was roadrunner. When I asked about her blazing speed, she told me she runs three laps a day in school. I knew the school encouraged kids to be more physically active but I did not know they were in training!
Since then we have jogged along the river, gone swimming, and made several healthy meals. We have had endless conversations about nutrition and physical activity and even little brother has gotten in on the action. At the end of the day has proven to be more of a gift than a challenge.
The Daddy’s Little Girl Health Challenge starts by creating new opportunities for positive and supportive connection. I’d like to invite all of the fathers, papa’s, pop’s, and dad’s to accept this call to action.
Participants in the program will reap many, many benefits:
- It instantly joins us with a community of fathers and daughters striving for better
- It helps us gain confidence and build skills around both physical activity and nutrition
- It creates a pathway for improving conditions and eliminating health disparities within the communities we value
- It reinforces caring among one another and for our community’s health
- It also builds character and discipline around physical activity and nutrition across generations – even creating a foundation for future generations.
It can even provide opportunities to engage in healthy activities for a cause, say a 5K for a charity. However, even more benefits can accrue when engaging in health activities creates safe and supportive spaces to learn, discuss and think. That’s what being a healthy dad is all about, right?
Dr. Raphael Travis, Jr. is an Assistant Professor at Texas State University School of Social Work in San Marcos, TX. He received his DrPH from the School of Public Health at UCLA and is also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.