In April, the CS Mott Children’s Hospital, a part of the University of Michigan, conducted a poll of adults to determine the issues that most concern them about the health and well-being of the nation’s children. Of the 20 issues listed in the poll, childhood obesity received the highest rating.

Concerns varied across demographic lines, such as race and income, but obesity rose to the top of the list, up from #3 in last year’s survey. In 2007, smoking and drug abuse outranked childhood obesity.

The top 10 list of health concerns affecting children for 2008 is:

  1. Obesity, with 35% of adults polled citing this concern. Hispanic children are at the greatest risk statistically but black and white adults rated it higher than Hispanic adults did.
  2. Drug abuse. Hispanic adults (50%) rated this as a more urgent concern, followed by black adults (35%) and white adults (29%). Adults in low-income households rated drug abuse as their biggest concern.
  3. Smoking, at the top of 2007’s list, was rated the #1 concern among Hispanic adults (52%).
  4. Bullying, a concern not mentioned in last year’s survey, was rated as a higher concern in middle-income households and was a concern cited by adults in households that do not include children as well in those with children.
  5. Internet safety received 27% of the vote, with adults from affluent communities (those with incomes topping $100,000 annually) rating it higher than others.
  6. Child abuse and neglect rose from the #10 spot in 2007, with 25% of the adults polled this year rating it as a top health concern for children.
  7. Teen pregnancy was rated the #1 concern among black adults (35%), with Hispanic adults (33%) and white adults (21%) following.
  8. Alcohol abuse dropped from the #4 concern last year.
  9. Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and sexually transmitted infection tied for this spot. Adults in the low-income bracket (annual income of $30,000 or less) were the most concerned about ADHD. Both issues received 21% of the vote. Sexually transmitted infection was rated #9 in last year’s poll, too.
  10. Environmental chemicals and not enough opportunity for physical activity tied for place #10. Hispanic adults and low-income adults were particularly concerned about the effects of chemical toxins in the environment. Placing the lack of opportunity for physical activity in the top 10 list of concerns is thought to underscore the significance of the concern for childhood obesity, according to the research team analyzing the data from the survey.

Other concerns identified in the poll but not ranked among the top 10 include, asthma, autism, depression, driving accidents, eating disorders, neighborhood safety, school violence, and suicide. Last year’s top 10 list included school violence and motor vehicle accidents but these two concerns were surpassed by others this year. They were replaced by bullying and ADHD.

The adults in households without children rated drug abuse, internet safety, sexually transmitted infection, and the use of tobacco-based products as top concerns. In low-income households, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, and the use of tobacco-based products ranked highest. Adults in the high-income bracket cited drug abuse, internet safety, and obesity as the most serious concerns.

A nationwide random sample of 2,064 adults 18 years old and older responded to survey questions during telephone interviews. All survey participants are part of the KnowledgePanelSM online presence of the Knowledge Network. Survey responses were formulated to reflect the general US population as based on data published by the US Census Bureau. Of the households surveyed, about 75% included children.

Source: University of Michigan Health System