"Twofold attitudes exist in the relationship between the fathers and services, acting as a barrier and not a confirmatory support..."To improve health care outcomes for men, we need to be open to understanding the lived experiences of individual participants, both as men and as health practitioners. Health care is always a two-way process of interaction between parties and this approach helps to support an understanding, non-blaming approach based on real-life experiences.
This Swedish study examines how men as fathers see health workers and how they seek additional informational in their early days as new parents. What is significant in their study is how men access and view health services and how services can use this knowledge to provide holistic and comprehensive information to support fathers in supporting their partners and children in what is usually a very busy time.
How Fathers Tend To Perceive Services
Many services direct their support and information provision around new children largely at mothers, and this can result in fathers being excluded or overlooked. What then happens is that many fathers seek information on the web and through forums from other fathers to confirm and validate their experiences and what is normal. The risk with this approach is that the information they receive is not as professional or accurate as it would be if it came from a professional health worker.
The research shows that fathers take health information provided from health professionals in a very personal way, while their own attitudes to the services takes a very systemic approach where the role of an individual staff member is seen in context of the whole health system.
This can act as a barrier towards effective engagement with fathers if the 'personal' approaches taken by staff are viewed as 'negative'. This means that dismissive or insulting approaches from health staff can be taken personally while fathers' interactions with those staff are seen as reflective of an uncaring or 'exclusive' system focused on the mother. So there is this two-way set of attitudes that can act as exclusive towards fathers, whether intentionally or not.
One of the major benefits then of web forums is that fathers can freely share experiences in a way that is usually perceived as less judgmental and where they have more control.
A More Understanding Approach
The paper advocates a more informed approach based on a better understanding of men's health-seeking and informational behaviours.
This means developing approaches that are 'male-friendly' and therefore build credibility with both new mothers and new fathers. The risk of deferring to web forums can be that misinformation is continued and that there becomes an ongoing distrust of the advice being provided by health services staff.
In practical terms, this can include:
- Separate processes and services directed at fathers to help them take a specific male-oriented approach towards supporting new families
- Directing information provision equally and actively to both mothers and fathers, rather than one or the other
- Use approaches such as aesthetic learning based on creative expression, drama or storytelling approaches that engage with fathers and provide information in a way that is more easily understood in terms of their role as men, fathers and family supporters.
- Fathers sharing about early parental support in health-care – virtual discussions on an Internet forum -121 KB
Research from Sweden's Dalarna University on fathers' attitudes to health services and accessing information on new parenting.