Father-inclusiveness training can improve health visitors’ practice

14 October 2014

Health visitor with dad

An evaluation of father-inclusiveness training for health visitors and community practitioners has found significant improvements in knowledge and attitudes, and changes in practice, among course participants.

The evaluation, by the Institute of Health & Society at the University of Worcester, examined the impact of a Fatherhood Institute training package on 134 health visitors and community practitioners, drawn from 12 sites across eight English NHS Trusts in 2012-14.

Researchers found statistically significant improvements in knowledge, more positive attitudes towards fathers and heightened intention to engage with fathers in practice after the training, with moderate to strong effect sizes.  These improvements were sustained over the three month study period.

Telephone interviews carried out at the end of the study revealed that the majority of participants felt that the training programme had raised their awareness of the importance of engaging with fathers and had offered them some helpful strategies to achieve this in their work.

Participant evaluations of the training at the end of the training day were as follows:

  • Found the training and toolkit useful in helping me understand more about the importance of engaging with fathers on home visits: 88%
  • The training day and toolkit provided me with at least 3 new strategies for engaging with fathers: 83%
  • The training day and toolkit provided me with practical ideas for engaging better with fathers when they are present on home visits: 84%.

In later telephone interviews, participants highlighted difficulties in accessing fathers, and obstacles to father-inclusive practice.

The evaluators’ conclusion was as follows:

“Health Visitors are well placed to engage with fathers of young children[1]. This study provides strong evidence of the usefulness of training health and family practitioners in father-inclusive practice.  The majority of participants responded positively to the Fatherhood Institute training day and reported that it helped raise awareness of the importance of engaging with fathers, and gave them the opportunity of learning new ways to achieve this and of sharing experiences and practice ideas with colleagues.

This study also reflects the need for providers of services to reconsider the need for out of hours’ services, as well as to assess how fathers’ needs and aspirations are acknowledged in leaflets, posters, and group sessions. Participants agree that there is still much work to be done in order to develop truly father-inclusive services.

Delivery and evaluation of the training was assisted by a grant from the Burdett Trust.

Download a PDF of the evaluation report: Burdett Report Final Version June 18 2014

Find out more about our Creating father-inclusive health and social services course.


[1] Sherriff, N. & Hall, V. (2011) Engaging and supporting fathers to promote breastfeeding: a new role for Health Visitors? Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 25, 467-475.


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