The DADEE of all Activity Programs to Benefit Young Girls

A world-first lifestyle program developed to enhance the physical and social-emotional wellbeing of young girls was launched today by University of Newcastle researchers.

The ‘Dads And Daughters Exercising and Empowered’ (DADEE) program will engage fathers to help instil primary school aged girls with the skills needed for a happy and healthy life.

Research shows that more than 80 per cent of girls fail to meet physical activity recommendations and fewer than 10 per cent can adequately perform fundamental movement skills such as kicking and throwing – results that are significantly worse than for boys of the same age.

DADEE was conceived by Professor Phil Morgan, Deputy Director at the UON’s Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition. With support from Port Waratah Coal Services, the Hunter Children’s Research Foundation and HMRI, it will commence during the first school term of 2015.

Professor Morgan believes fathers are one of the key role models and motivators in a girl’s life.

“Research has consistently demonstrated the unique and powerful influence dads can wield in shaping physical activity behaviours, learning ability, self-esteem, social skills and resilience, particularly for girls,” Professor Morgan said.

DADEE will build on results from the multi-award-winning Healthy Dads, Healthy Kids study, with a more targeted focus. Over eight weeks, fathers and daughters will attend sessions involving a range of physical activities and challenges designed to improve the fitness, confidence and physical competence of the girls, to empower them, and to optimise their social-emotional wellbeing.

“Research shows that girls are marginalised in home and school physical activity contexts,” Professor Morgan added. “Importantly, we also know that the father-daughter relationship is associated with significant psycho-social developmental and health outcomes. Physical activity provides a unique domain to foster this relationship.

“DADEE activities will include rough-and-tumble play and cutting-edge activities to develop fundamental movement skills to develop the girls’ fitness and resilience. Fathers will also receive education on parenting practices and, in turn, improve their own levels of fitness as active and engaged role models.”

HMRI Director Professor Michael Nilsson, a neurologist, said DADEE had the potential to bring both immediate and long-term benefits for children’s academic performance, concentration levels, behaviour and general wellbeing.

“In a recent international study I was involved with, we found that just two hours of extra physical education each week doubled the odds that a young student would achieve national learning goals,” Professor Nilsson said.

“The team behind DADEE is to be commended for putting a fun and interesting spin on what is a seriously important issue.”

Port Waratah CEO Hennie du Plooy said he was confident that DADEE would prove to be a good investment for the company, the community and dads and daughters everywhere.

“This is the sort of project that Port Waratah is very proud to be involved in because it fits so well within our own philosophy as a company. The ongoing sustainability, health and wellbeing of our workforce and the community in which we live are of huge importance to us,” he said.

The DADEE trial will initially recruit 50 families (approximately 75 daughters, aged 5-12 years) from the broader Newcastle region. All families participating in the program will receive a sports equipment pack that includes active resources to promote dad-daughter games and improve sport skills.

People can register their interest via DADEE@newcastle.edu.au or phone (02) 4921 6566