DAD knows best: Giving Support to Milwaukee Fathers

Posted on February 21, 2017
Kaija Zusevics

Kaija Zusevics, PhD, MPH, CHES

Prior research has shown that father involvement is integral to positive health and social outcomes for children and mothers, yet many home visiting programs target mothers. Researchers in the field of Public Health have highlighted the need for programs that support men in fatherhood roles and address racial health disparities in the fight against infant mortality.

With support for evaluation from Kaija Zusevics, PhD, MPH, CHES Associate Researcher at the Center for Urban Population Health, the City of Milwaukee Health Department has developed such a program, called the Direct Assistance for Dads (DAD) Project. The project works with expectant and new fathers through one-on-one coaching and home visits that encourage them to increase their involvement with their children and their partners.

Zusevics hopes that this innovative and unique approach to serving fathers and families will improve maternal and child health.

More about DAD

DAD is funded by a three-year, $400,000 Wisconsin Partnership Program “Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families” community-academic partnership grant. Participants in the program benefit from education and direct services with the goal of increasing the involvement that fathers and fathers-to-be have with their children and their partner. Ultimately, DAD is designed to improve family and child health outcomes.

As of June 2015, more than 50 fathers have enrolled in the program. Participants are tasked to complete two evidence-based curricula: Parents as Teachers, and 24/7 Dads. Fathers also receive referrals to services that provide health insurance support, primary care medical services, mental health and AODA services, family planning, financial literacy information, legal assistance, job training, GED and other educational resources, and child support information/services, as needed.

Going beyond Milwaukee

Along with representatives from the City of Milwaukee Health Department, Zusevics presented about DAD at the American Public Health Association (APHA) annual conference.

In addition, The City of Milwaukee Health Department just launched a new website that they hope will not only raise public awareness about DAD, but the larger issues that this program addresses.

Beyond the DAD program, Zusevics pursues research that focuses on Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) in new areas of public health scientific inquiry and explores education as a social determinant of health, particularly among children and youth. Her research examines the intersection of education, community engagement and health equity among unique populations.