The 'Healthy Dads, Healthy Kids' randomized controlled trial: efficacy of a healthy lifestyle program for overweight fathers and their children

Int J Obes (Lond). 2011 Mar;35(3):436-47. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2010.151. Epub 2010 Aug 10.


Objective: To evaluate the feasibility and efficacy of the 'Healthy Dads, Healthy Kids' (HDHK) program, which was designed to help overweight fathers lose weight and be a role model of positive health behaviors for their children.

Design: Randomized controlled trial.

Participants: A total of 53 overweight/obese men (mean (s.d.) age=40.6 (7.1) years; body mass index (BMI)=33.2 (3.9)) and their primary school-aged children (n=71, 54% boys; mean (s.d.) age=8.2 (2.0) years) were randomly assigned (family unit) to either (i) the HDHK program (n=27 fathers, n=39 children) or (ii) a wait-list control group (n=26 fathers, n=32 children).

Intervention: Fathers in the 3-month program attended eight face-to-face education sessions. Children attended three of these sessions.

Outcomes: The primary outcome was fathers' weight. Fathers and their children were assessed at baseline, and at 3- and 6-month follow-up, for weight, waist circumference, BMI, blood pressure, resting heart rate (RHR), objectively measured physical activity and self-reported dietary intake.

Results: Intention-to-treat analysis revealed significant between-group differences at 6 months for weight loss (P<0.001), with HDHK fathers losing more weight (-7.6 kg; 95% confidence interval (CI) -9.2, -6.0; d=0.54) than control group fathers (0.0 kg; 95% CI -1.4, 1.6). Significant treatment effects (P<0.05) were also found for waist circumference (d=0.62), BMI (d=0.53), systolic blood pressure (d=0.92), RHR (d=0.66) and physical activity (d=0.91), but not for dietary intake. In children, significant treatment effects (P<0.05) were found for physical activity (d=0.74), RHR (d=0.51) and dietary intake (d=0.84).

Conclusion: The HDHK program resulted in significant weight loss and improved health-related outcomes in fathers and improved eating and physical activity among children. Targeting fathers is a novel and efficacious approach to improving health behavior in their children.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Fathers / psychology*
  • Fathers / statistics & numerical data
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Overweight / psychology*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Waist Circumference
  • Weight Loss*