The trend of declining childhood health in the U.S. is at least being recognized by adults, as a new survey ranks not getting enough exercise, and obesity, as primary health concerns for children.
In a nationwide sample, adults were asked to identify the top 10 biggest health concerns for kids in their communities. For the first time, not enough exercise was rated by most adults at the top of the list (39 percent), followed by childhood obesity (38 percent) and smoking and tobacco use (34 percent).
“Childhood obesity remains a top concern, and adults know it is certainly linked to lack of exercise,” said Matthew M. Davis, M.D.
“The strong perception that lack of exercise is a threat to children’s health may reflect effective recent public health messages from programs such as First Lady Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ campaign.
Researcher say that appropriate levels of exercise can do more than burn calories.
“But adequate exercise offers many more benefits other than weight loss or preventing obesity – such as better attention and learning in school and improved sense of well-being,” said Davis, associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School.
The top ten poll results were:
- Not enough exercise (39 percent);
- Childhood obesity (38 percent);
- Smoking and tobacco use (34 percent);
- Drug abuse (33 percent);
- Bullying (29 percent);
- Stress (27 percent);
- Alcohol abuse (23 percent);
- Teen pregnancy (23 percent);
- Internet safety (22 percent);
- Child abuse and neglect (20 percent).
“The strong connection of many of the top 10 child health concerns to health behaviors among children and adolescents underscores the importance of public programs and communication initiatives — for example, those designed to prevent drug abuse, tobacco use, alcohol abuse and teen pregnancy,” Davis said.
Notably, the poll’s results varied based on race/ethnicity. Hispanic adults were more likely to rate childhood obesity first (44 percent), followed by not enough exercise (38 percent), and also rated drug abuse higher than smoking and tobacco use.
Black adults had higher levels of concern about smoking and tobacco use, ranking that most often (43 percent). They also had high levels of concern about racial inequality, ranking it seventh on the list, and gun-related injuries, ranking that ninth.
Black and Hispanic adults both identified sexually transmitted infections as a greater concern for kids in their communities than did white adults.
“Child health varies across communities, and these results emphasize a need for local programs that respect and address community-specific health priorities for youth,” Davis said.
Source: University of Michigan