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The respondents were asked to identify the 10 biggest health concerns for children in their communities, and 39 percent said it was lack of exercise, 38 percent said obesity and 34 percent said smoking and tobacco use.
The remaining top concerns listed in the poll from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital were: drug abuse (33 percent), bullying (29 percent), stress (27 percent), alcohol abuse (23 percent), teen pregnancy (23 percent), Internet safety (22 percent) and child abuse and neglect (20 percent).
"Childhood obesity remains a top concern, and adults know it is certainly linked to lack of exercise," poll director Dr. Matthew Davis, associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and associate professor of public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, said in a university news release.
"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," he suggested. "But 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."
The poll's results varied based on respondents' race and ethnicity. Hispanic adults were more likely to rate obesity as a greater risk (44 percent) than lack of exercise (38 percent), and also rated drug abuse higher than smoking and tobacco use.
Black adults felt that smoking and tobacco use was the most serious health concern for children (43 percent). They also ranked racial inequality seventh on the list and gun-related injuries ninth.
Compared to whites, black and Hispanic adults ranked sexually transmitted diseases as a greater health concern for children.
"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.
"Child health varies across communities, and these results emphasize a need for local programs that respect and address community-specific health priorities for youth," he added.
-- Robert Preidt
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