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“Fathers First” initiative focuses on how fathers can impact infant and mother’s health

Photo: Larry Crayton, Unsplash

Can a father’s involvement in the birth of a child, as well as the child’s first year of life affect the mother’s health as well as the child’s? According to Jesse Davis, MD, MBA, founder and director of the Father’s First Initiative at Saint Louis Children’s Hospital, the answer is a resounding “yes”!

A senior clinical advisor in the Office of Community Health Improvement at BJC Healthcare and a clinical instructor of pediatrics at WashU, Davis will be a featured speaker at the April 8 CHEPAR meeting. He’ll discuss the Father’s First Initiative and its mission to offer “wrap-around services” that help engage and affect fathers in the prenatal, postpartum and first year of life of a child.

Davis describes Father’s First as an important intervention that improves the engagement of fathers from a qualitative and quantitative standpoint which, in turn, provides a positive outcome for moms and babies. “The presence of fathers at birth has been linked to a positive difference in outcomes like low birth weight, child health and pregnancy complications,” Davis says. “This fact, in addition to improvement in social determinants of health (economics, education, access to quality care) for these families could contribute to decreasing disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes.”

Davis adds that included in the program’s metrics is its impact on mental health. “It is well established that maternal depression (prenatal and postpartum) can negatively impact outcomes. Father’s First also seeks to evaluate the impact of maternal and paternal depression (prenatal and postpartum), as well as how our program can improve these outcomes,” he says.

Davis describes living in a “Hey Mom culture” where, historically, maternal needs and perspectives are addressed relating to the wellbeing of the child. Davis’ talk will focus on also putting an emphasis on Dad’s involvement in order to improve outcomes of the child as well as the mother. Additionally, Father’s First helps build quality partnerships with community organizations to help meet this common goal.

As a senior clinical advisor for infant and maternal health (IMH) in the office of community health improvement at BJC Healthcare, Davis is involved in other important work to address outcomes in these populations. This includes integrating doula care into hospitals and university efforts to advance health equity and improve outcomes. “The aim is to improve community relationships, building partnerships with community-based doulas, and serving as a facilitator, amplifier, and investor for the incredible work that is being done to serve moms and babies in our region.”

Hear more from Davis about Father’s First at the April 8th meeting of the Collaborative of Health Economics and Policy Analysis Researchers (CHEPAR), from 9 to 10:30 a.m. RSVP to Leah Kemper at to receive the meeting link and password. Read more about this event.

The Center for Health Economics and Policy hosts monthly CHEPAR meetings to facilitate research in the areas of health economics and policy by Washington University investigators. The meetings are open to Washington University faculty, staff, students and external collaborators.