National Poll Reveals Health Concerns for Children

The sixth annual C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health was just released.  The survey asked adults about their top health concerns for children in their communities.

The top answer this year was “not enough exercise.” Not only is it number one, but it is new to the top of the list. Childhood obesity and tobacco use were the second and third most commonly identified child health problems. Drug abuse fell out the top three to fourth place.

As in past years, many of the top ten health concerns relate to health behaviors: exercise, obesity, smoking and tobacco use, drug and alcohol abuse, pregnancy, and bullying. Top health concerns this year also include stress, internet safety, and abuse and neglect.

This year, other child health concerns rated as a “big problem” include: sexting (19%), driving accidents (18%), sexually transmitted infections (17%), school violence (16%), unsafe neighborhoods (16%), attention deficit disorder (15%), chemicals in the environment (15%), depression (14%), suicide (13%), racial inequality (13%), autism (13%), gun related injuries (11%), hunger (9%) and food allergies (6%).

Respondents of all races listed insufficient exercise and obesity as two of the top three health concerns for children in their communities. Other concerns that made the top ten across races included drug abuse, smoking and tobacco use, bullying, and teen pregnancy.

However, there are consistent differences in responses based on race and ethnicity. Hispanics were more concerned than blacks and whites about obesity, drug abuse, bullying, stress and pregnancy. Blacks were more concerned than whites and Hispanics about smoking and tobacco use, racial inequality, gun-related injuries and unsafe neighborhoods. Blacks and Hispanics both identified sexually transmitted infections as a greater concern than whites did.

These differences in perspective offer insights into ways that child health varies across communities, and they emphasize the need for local programs that respect and address community-specific health priorities for youth.  Where you live should not determine how well or how long you live.

Data Driven Detroit (D3) is dedicated to documenting the characteristics of neighborhoods where adults live and children grow up so that issues of equity can be better addressed.  We are currently working with the Detroit/Wayne County Health Authority to explore whether we can develop a collaborative effort to acquire data that will allow us to develop Healthcare and Population Needs Indices.  We will also have the opportunity to work this fall with the Kirwan Institute at Ohio State University to redo the Neighborhood Opportunity Index for southeast Michigan that they published nearly four years ago.

Each of these indices will provide a lens through which we can better understand the neighborhood context in which people live, with the ultimate goal of creating opportunity in every neighborhood.