Childhood obesity has been rated as the top health concern for children in
2013. This is followed by drug abuse at 34 percent and smoking and tobacco use
The top three health issues are the same for whites, who made up the
majority of the 1,996 respondents who were nationally representative. Hispanics
also rated childhood obesity at number one (47 percent) but rank bullying
number two at 43 percent and drug abuse third at 39 percent.
Among blacks, the differences are more striking. This group ranks childhood
obesity sixth. Smoking and tobacco use is first, (40 percent), followed by drug
abuse (34 percent) and school violence (33 percent). Sexually transmitted
diseases, including HIV/AIDS, came in fourth and teen pregnancy fifth.
"Childhood obesity remains a top concern, but it is essential to look at
differences in perception based on race and ethnicity," says Matthew M. Davis,
M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on
Children's Health. "Medical and public health providers should be aware that
different communities could have different priorities about what health
problems are most important."
The strong link of many of the top 10 child health concerns to health
behaviors of children and their families indicates that the public understands
the powerful role of behavior in health - in terms of short-term impact and
long-term consequences, says Davis, associate professor of pediatrics and
internal medicine at the U-M Medical School and associate professor of public
policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.
1. Childhood obesity
2. Drug abuse
3. Smoking and tobacco use
6. Alcohol abuse
7. Child abuse and neglect
8. Teen pregnancy
9. Internet safety
"Messaging from medical professionals, through public health programs and in
the popular media about the risks of childhood obesity is widespread. Recent
data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that
rates of obesity in early childhood may be decreasing for the first time in
some states, which may be attributable to the high level of concern and
responses from parents, families and communities," says Davis.
"Still, we know obesity among children remains substantially higher than it
was in generations past. So this poll presents good news that much of the
public recognizes the need to keep working hard on this problem."
Davis says he hopes the results of this poll shine a light
on how different communities prioritize the threats to children's health in
their own communities.
"Not all groups see through the same lens. The
differences we see based on race and ethnicity likely reflect street-level
realities. To be successful, programs will likely need to respect and address
community-specific health priorities for improving and safeguarding child
health," he says.