04:07pm Tuesday 22 October 2019

Top 10 health concerns for kids; Obesity, stress, teen pregnancy worsening

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Recent national statistics on obesity show the prevalence of childhood obesity leveling off.  However, according to a report released today by the University of Michigan C.S. MottChildren’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health,public concern about childhood obesity remains high. For the third straight year, childhood obesity is rated the biggest health problem for kids by adults in the United States.

In May 2010, the Poll asked 2,064 adults to rate 20 different health concerns for children living in their communities.

The top 10 overall health concerns for U.S. children in 2010 and the percentage of adults who rate each as a “big problem” include:

1. Childhood obesity, 38 percent
2. Drug abuse, 30 percent
3. Smoking, 29 percent
4. Internet safety, 25 percent
5. Stress, 24 percent
6. Bullying, 23 percent
7. Teen pregnancy, 23 percent
8. Child abuse and neglect, 21 percent
9. Alcohol abuse, 20 percent
10. Not enough opportunities for physical activity, 20 percent

Adults who rated health concerns as a big problem, were also asked to rate whether these health problems are getting better, staying the same or getting worse.  Fifty-seven percent of adults that rate childhood obesity as a big problem for kids say it is “getting worse.”

“The national data about the rates of childhood obesity leveling off were collected in 2007 and 2008. The perspectives we’re hearing in this poll in 2010 may reflect new changes in obesity rates seen by adults in communities across the country,” says Matthew M. Davis, M.D., director of the poll and associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine in the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the U-M Medical School. “Another possibility is that increasing concerns may reflect the public’s growing worries about the health consequences of obesity for children, such as diabetes, heart disease, breathing and sleep problems, and arthritis.”

Drug abuse and tobacco use are of great concern as child health problems in this poll, even though recent national data also suggest declines in use among adolescents. 

“High levels of public concern about drug abuse and tobacco use by kids may reflect the longer-term public health efforts to discourage substance use among youth and the clearly negative consequences of using these substances,” says Davis. “After all, the battle against illicit drug use and against tobacco smoking for kids has been active for a couple of generations now. By comparison, the battle against childhood obesity has really just begun.”

Children’s stress moved from 8th on the top 10 list in 2009 to fifth in 2010. Among adults who rate stress as a big health problem for kids, 56 percent believe stress for kids is getting worse.

“Levels of stress among children may relate to economic challenges faced by their families in the national recession and slow recovery,” says Davis, who is also associate professor of public policy at the U-M Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

“The fact that stress now rates higher on the list of child health problems is a reminder that most of the problems on the list are behavioral or psychological in nature. Lawmakers often deal with adults’ concerns about making ends meet.  In contrast, in times like these children’s stress may fly under the policy radar.”

Davis, who is also a primary care pediatrician, says that the needs and stresses felt by children may require more policy efforts by children’s health advocates and closer attention from clinicians.

Other child health issues and the percentage of adults who rate each as a “big problem” include:

  • Chemicals in the environment,18 percent
  • Sexting,16 percent
  • Depression, 15 percent
  • Sexually transmitted infections, 15 percent
  • School violence, 13 percent
  • Asthma. 10 percent
  • Neighborhood safety, 8 percent
  • Autism, 8 percent
  • Suicide, 8 percent

Davis says that he hopes this unique annual assessment of the public’s views on child health problems can help guide community and government efforts to support and safeguard children’s health.

“Taking the national ‘pulse’ on these issues can help set priorities for medical and public health programs in the future, and can also help officials see whether messages about specific health risks for children are reaching the public,” he says.

Top three health concerns for children in 2010 by race/ethnicity:


  1. Childhood obesity,  37 percent
  2. Drug abuse, 26 percent
  3. Smoking and tobacco use, 25 percent


  1. Smoking and tobacco use, 40 percent
  2. Teen pregnancy, 36 percent
  3. Childhood obesity, 36 percent


  1. Drug abuse, 46 percent
  2. Childhood obesity, 45 percent
  3. Smoking and tobacco use, 41 percent

Other resources:

Full C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health Report, including Top 10 by race/ethnicity: [new link]

Prevention and treatment of childhood obesity, from the American Academy of Pediatrics: www.aap.org/healthtopics/overweight.cfm

Let’s Move: www.letsmove.gov

Monitoring the Future: (An annual study of substance use by American youth, from the National Institute on Drug Abuse)


C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health: www.med.umich.edu/mott/npch

Data Source:

This report presents findings from a nationally representative household survey conducted exclusively by Knowledge Networks, Inc, for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital via a method used in many published studies. The survey was administered May 1-17, 2010, to a randomly selected, group of adult with and without children (n=2,064), from the Knowledge Networks standing panel that closely resembles the U.S. population. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect population figures from the Census Bureau. The survey completion rate was 61 percent among parents contacted to participate. The margin of sampling error isplus or minus 3 to 7 percentage points for the main analysis.

Purpose/Funding: The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health – based at the Child Health Evaluation and Research (CHEAR) Unit at the University of Michigan and funded by the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases and the University of Michigan Health System – is designed to measure major health care issues and trends for U.S. children.  This Report includes research findings from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, which do not represent the opinions of the investigators or the opinions of the University of Michigan. 

The University of Michigan reserves all rights over this material.

To learn more about Knowledge Networks, visit www.knowledgenetworks.com.

Media contact: Jessica Soulliere
E-mail: jesssoul@umich.edu
Phone: 734-764-2220

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