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Drug Abuse Now Equals Childhood Obesity as Top Health Concern for Kids

Drug Abuse Now Equals Childhood Obesity as Top Health Concern for Kids

Newswise — ANN ARBOR, Mich. – 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.

Released: 8/12/2011 3:45 PM EDT
Embargo expired: 8/15/2011 8:00 AM EDT
Source: University of Michigan Health System

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

“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 U-M 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,” Davis says. “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.”

Adults’ perceptions of top health problems for children in their own communities differ substantially by race/ethnicity.

Top 10 health concerns for children in 2011 by race/ethnicity:


1. Drug abuse, 44%
2. Childhood obesity, 44%
3. Smoking and tobacco use, 36%
4. Gun related injuries, 36%
5. School violence, 35%
6. Unsafe neighborhoods, 34%
7. Alcohol abuse, 33%
8. Teen pregnancy, 33%
9. Sexually transmitted infections, 31%
10. Sexting, 31%


1. Drug abuse, 49%
2. Teen pregnancy, 44%
3. Childhood obesity, 44%
4. Child abuse and neglect, 38%
5. Stress,38%
6. Driving accidents, 37%
7. Bullying, 37%
8. Smoking and tobacco use, 35%
9. Internet safety, 34%
10. Sexually transmitted infections, 33%


1. Childhood obesity, 30%
2. Drug abuse, 28%
3. Smoking and tobacco use, 22%
4. Internet safety, 21%
5. Bullying, 21%
6. Teen pregnancy, 19%
7. Stress, 18%
8. Alcohol abuse, 17%
9. Sexting, 16%
10. Driving accidents, 16%

“Black adults are much more likely to cite violence-related issues as big problems for kids in their communities,” says Davis, who is also associate professor of public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. “The top 10 child health concerns for black adults include gun-related injuries, school violence and unsafe neighborhoods. These same topics do not make white or Hispanic adults’ list of top 10 child health problems for children in their communities.”

“This finding is a reminder that newly popular programs to address bullying and internet safety concerns in many communities must not crowd out initiatives that address immediate safety issues related to neighborhood and interpersonal violence,” Davis adds.

Full report:

C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health:




1. Childhood obesity

2. Drug abuse

3. Smoking and tobacco use

4. Teen pregnancy

5. Bullying

6. Internet safety

7. Stress

8. Alcohol abuse

9. Driving accidents

10. Sexting

Purpose/Funding: The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health – based at the Child Health Evaluation and Research 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.

Data Source: This report presents findings from a nationally representative household survey conducted exclusively by Knowledge Networks, Inc. (KN), for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital via a method used in many published studies. The survey was administered in May 2011 to a randomly selected, stratified group of adults age 18 or older (n=2,130) from the KN 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 panel members contacted to participate. The margin of sampling error is ± 3 percentage points, and larger for some subgroups.

To learn more about Knowledge Networks, visit

Findings from the U-M C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health do not represent the opinions of the investigators or the opinions of the University of Michigan.


Elizabeth Polin, DDS

American Dental Arts

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