A father's love and full involvement in his children's lives is crucial to their health, well-being, and development.
Fathers influence the physical well-being of their children in a number of ways -- by being engaged in their lives, supporting a mother's health, or by ensuring that children get the preventive services, such as vaccinations and well-baby checkups, they need to stay healthy. Fathers make a difference.
Studies have shown a father's own health makes a difference to their children's health. Active toddlers, for example, are more likely to have fathers with a lower Body Mass Index than less active children.
National Men's Health Week, June 10-16, which concludes with Father's Day, is a good time to focus on how men can take care of their own physical and mental health for themselves and for the well-being of their families. That means eating right, being active, and getting health insurance to ensure their families' security and peace of mind.
Quality health insurance, however, has not always been easily accessible or affordable for millions of Americans who don't get insurance through their jobs. Millions of men are uninsured. An accident or illness could lead to crushing debt devastating to their families' security.
But thanks to the Affordable Care Act, new options will soon be available for the nearly 23 million men who are eligible. Beginning October 1, 2013, individuals and small businesses will be able to visit a Health Insurance Marketplace to compare health coverage options and choose the plan that best fits their needs and wallet. In fact, some individuals will be eligible for free or low-cost plans. Coverage will begin as early as January 1, 2014.
Because of the health care law, starting January 1, no one can be turned away or charged more for coverage (whether through the Marketplace or otherwise) because of a pre-existing condition, such as heart disease, diabetes, or prostate cancer. The Affordable Care Act also requires most private health insurance plans to cover recommended preventive services, such as cholesterol checks, alcohol misuse counseling, depression screening, and help to quit smoking.
At the Department of Health and Human Services, we're also helping fathers develop responsible parenting skills and economic stability. Head Start and Early Head Start programs are bolstering resources and training for creating father-friendly programs to make it easier for men to engage in their children's lives.
The Administration for Families and Children works in partnership with the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse to support Fatherhood Buzz, an initiative to promote responsible fatherhood and provide community resources through barbershops across the country. The Clearinghouse recently unveiled new public service announcements, featuring the characters from the movie Despicable Me 2 and focusing on the theme "Take Time to be a Dad Today."
These programs aim to connect dads to jobs, training, and other resources. They also strengthen the bonds between couples with children, reduce domestic violence, and help provide children strong role models of adulthood.
To my Dad and all the dads out there -- and all the family and community members working to help them succeed as parents -- thank you for helping our children thrive, and for helping to ensure a brighter future for us all. Please take care of yourselves for us.
Happy Father's Day!