Background: Becoming a father impacts men's health and wellbeing, while also contributing to the health and wellbeing of mothers and children. There is no large-scale, public health surveillance system aimed at understanding the health and behaviors of men transitioning into fatherhood. The purpose of this study was to describe piloted randomized approaches of a state-based surveillance system examining paternal behaviors before and after their infant's birth to better understand the health needs of men and their families during the transition to parenthood.
Methods: During October 2018-July 2019, 857 fathers in Georgia were sampled 2-6 months after their infant's birth from birth certificates files and surveyed via mail, online or telephone, in English or Spanish, using two randomized approaches: Indirect-to-Dads and Direct-to-Dads. Survey topics included mental and physical health, healthcare, substance use, and contraceptive use.
Findings: Weighted response rates (Indirect-to-Dads, 33%; Direct-to-Dads, 31%) and population demographics did not differ by approach. Respondents completed the survey by mail (58%), online (28%) or telephone (14%). Among 266 fathers completing the survey, 55% had a primary care physician, and 49% attended a healthcare visit for themselves during their infant's mother's pregnancy or since their infant's birth. Most fathers were overweight or had obesity (70%) while fewer reported smoking cigarettes (19%), binge drinking (13%) or depressive symptoms (10%) since their infant's birth.
Conclusions: This study tests a novel approach for obtaining population-based estimates of fathers' perinatal health behaviors, with comparable response rates from two pragmatic approaches. The pilot study results quantify a number of public health needs related to fathers' health and healthcare access.