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UM Survey Finds Drug Abuse, Obesity Top Health Concern For Kids

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University of Michigan Hospital (University of Michigan photo)

University of Michigan Hospital (University of Michigan photo)

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Adults rate drug abuse and childhood obesity as the top health concerns for kids in their communities, according to the fifth annual survey of the top 10 health concerns for kids conducted by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

Most of the top 10 health concerns pertain to long-recognized risky behaviors for youth:  drug, alcohol and tobacco use, as well as teen pregnancy.  The top health concerns this year also include new risks associated with children’s use of technology, including Internet safety and sexting.

In May 2011, the Poll asked adults to rate 23 different health concerns for children living in their communities.  The top 10 overall health concerns for U.S. children in 2011 and the percentage of adults who rate each item as a “big problem” include:

1. Childhood obesity, 33 percent
2. Drug abuse, 33 percent
3. Smoking and tobacco use, 25 percent
4. Teen pregnancy, 24 percent
5. Bullying, 24 percent
6. Internet safety, 23 percent
7. Stress, 22 percent
8. Alcohol abuse, 20 percent
9. Driving accidents, 20 percent
10. Sexting, 20 percent

“The perception of drug abuse as a big problem matches recent national data showing increasing use of marijuana and other drugs by US teens,” says Matthew Davis, M.D., director of the National Poll on Children’s Health and associate professor in the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the UM Medical School. “Meanwhile, although obesity remains atop the list of child health concerns for the fourth straight year, the level of public concern has declined over the last few years in our poll. This may be a warning to public health officials, because it indicates how the public is hearing national messages that previous increases in children’s obesity rates have recently leveled off.”

The report also found significant racial disparities among parents.

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