Recent policy pronouncements emphasise the importance of engaging fathers with preventive primary care services. However, in England, there is a paucity of literature which examines African and African-Caribbean fathers' experiences of service provision. This paper reports a study that investigated African and African-Caribbean fathers' beliefs about fatherhood, health and preventive primary care services, with the aim of addressing the deficit in the literature. Nine focus groups involving 46 African and African-Caribbean fathers, recruited using purposive sampling, were undertaken between October 2008-January 2009. Fatherhood was seen as a core aspect of the participants' identities. The fathers enacted these identities in a number of ways, such as caring for and protecting children, which were influenced by spirituality, relationships with women, paid work and racism. The fathers had concerns about their bodies, medical conditions, physical activity and forms of consumption. However, their primary focus was on maintaining and improving the well-being of their children. This resulted in them neglecting their own health needs as they had to meet the obligations of family life and paid work. The fathers reported limited contact with preventive primary care services and were unaware of their purpose, function and availability. They identified ethnicity as a positive asset, and felt their families and communities had particular strengths. However they acknowledged that structural constraints, including racism, influenced their perceptions of and access to local health services. The engagement of African and African-Caribbean fathers needs to be addressed more specifically in policy as part of a broader programme of action to tackle health inequalities. In addition, child health services could build on fathers' commitment to children's well-being through practice that addresses fathers' as well as mothers' needs in families.
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.