Poll: Obesity and Substance Abuse are Top Two Problems for Kids

Obesity continues to outrank all other health problems as the number one concern for children in the United States. According to a report by the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, 42 percent of adults believe childhood obesity is a big problem. This number increased from 35 percent in 2008.

“This is the first year the three major ethnic/racial groups agree,” said Matthew Davis, MD, director of the poll. “In 2008, among whites, the chief concern was obesity, while among blacks the chief concern was teen pregnancy, and among Hispanics the chief concern was smoking.”

The poll asked adults to rate 23 different health concerns for children in their communities. Childhood obesity ranked number one, with 42 percent of adults agreeing that it is a major concern. In 2008, 25 percent of adults rated it as the top health concern, and in 2007, it was ranked number three.

Drug abuse came in second, with 36 percent of adults rating it as a big problem. Substance abuse has been the number two concern since 2007.

Smoking came in third (32 percent), bullying fourth (31 percent), Internet safety fifth (31 percent), child abuse and neglect sixth (29 percent), and alcohol abuse came in seventh (26.5 percent). New to the poll was stress (26 percent). The concern that there aren’t enough opportunities for physical activity came in ninth with 25 percent, and teen pregnancy fell three places from number 7 with 24 percent of adults rating it as a big problem in 2009.

To address these problems successfully, Davis says children and families need not just access to medical and mental health care, but also guidance from community health and educational programs that cultivate healthy, protective behaviors and offer support when health problems arise.

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