Researching support needs for dads with children in preterm care

The mental health and wellbeing of new fathers whose children end up in neonatal intensive care is the focus of a new project to be led by Telethon Kids Institute researchers, thanks to a $388,000 grant from Healthway.

The research project will identify ways to help Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) practitioners better support fathers as part of routine preterm care, ultimately delivering better outcomes for children and families. Funding will be administered through The University of Western Australia.

The research will involve 200 fathers of babies admitted to the NICUs at King Edward Memorial and Perth Children’s Hospitals, with the results to be incorporated into a program of materials that can be accessed both in-person and online.

Telethon Kids project lead Dr Vincent Mancini said the project, in partnership with several preterm child health groups, would address unmet needs of fathers.

“While mothers are supported by the hospital as in-patients, there is a strong evidence base to suggest that the needs of fathers in these cases are being overlooked and a lot more can be done to help them through what is already an emotionally and mentally draining situation,” Dr Mancini said.

“This research will allow us to deliver information and resources to enable current practice to align with recommended approaches. By supporting fathers, we’re supporting families.”

Healthway CEO Colin Smith said there was clear need for this research project.

“This research project’s strong partnerships and potential to help all fathers, aligns well with our priorities to use the best available research to inform what we do and strengthen mental health support for dads,” he said.

“The impact of a baby’s admission into NICU affects the entire family, and this experience is often unexpected and traumatic.”

‘We need to make sure dads are also receiving the right support to help keep the family strong,” he said.

“Dads can find it more difficult to reach out for help due to stigma around mental health issues, and this research project aims to break down barriers to receiving the support they need.”

This research project received funding through Healthway’s 2023 Open Research round, where nearly $763,000 has been shared across six projects that will test new programs and/or address gaps in health promotion research. See below for the successful projects.

Congratulations to the universities that have received funding through our 2023 Open Research Round for the following research projects.  




University of Western Australia (led by Telethon Kids Institute)


Co-design of a program supporting paternal involvement in preterm care:

This intervention research project aims co-design a capacity building and mental health intervention to better support fathers of babies following a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) admission.

Curtin University


Impact of Successful Ageing education on promoting health in WA:

Exploratory research to develop a new online resource (targeting adults and allied health students. The course aims to improve health literacy, promote healthy ageing, and reduce ageist attitudes.

University of Western Australia (led by the Telethon Kids Institute)


Supporting sport participating of young people with chronic conditions:

Exploratory research to co-design brief online educational modules for community-based sport service providers to improve participation of young people with chronic health conditions in sport programs.

Deakin University


Implementation of a physical activity and physical literacy tool in schools:

Exploratory research grant to test the implementation of a physical activity and physical literacy online measurement reporting tool in nine Western Australian schools.

Curtin University


Improving the accessibility of universal child mental health programs:

Exploratory research to investigate how universal child mental health programs can be made accessible for those with low language proficiency, which impacts around one in four Australian children.

Curtin University


CaLD Mental Health: Exploring the impacts of the ‘new racism’ in Australia:

Exploratory research grant to explore and understand the impacts of ‘new racism’ on Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) communities.

Total funding to research projects:






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