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Children's Health

Obesity Is Biggest Health Problem for Kids

Drug Abuse, Bullying, Internet Safety, and Stress Also Make Top 10 List
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By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 13, 2009 -- U.S. adults continue to rate obesity as the biggest health problem for children, according to a 2009 poll conducted by C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.

Although childhood obesity ranked No. 1 last year also, this is the first year it ranked at the top for whites, Hispanics, and African-Americans. Last year, Hispanics rated smoking as the top child health concern and African-Americans ranked teenage pregnancy.

Stress, which came in at No. 8, made the top 10 list for the first time this year. It ranked especially high among lower-income participants, perhaps reflecting the stresses that children face as their parents struggle in the current economy.

The complete list of children's health concerns rated as a "big problem:"

1. Childhood obesity
2. Drug abuse
3. Smoking/tobacco use
4. Bullying
5. Internet safety
6. Child abuse and neglect
7. Alcohol abuse
8. Stress
9. Not enough opportunities for physical activity
10. Teen pregnancy

The fact that stress -- and many other problems on the list -- are behavioral or psychological in nature means that families need more than just good health care; they also need “guidance from community health and educational programs that cultivate healthy, protective behaviors and offer support when health problems
arise,” poll director Matthew Davis, MD, says in a written statement. Davis is an associate professor of general pediatrics and internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and an associate professor of public policy at the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

The nationally representative survey was conducted in May 2009 and included 2,017 randomly selected adults 18 or older. Participants were asked to rank 23 different health concerns facing children in their communities. The margin of error is plus or minus three to four percentage points.

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