Student Well-Being

Adults Rank Obesity as Biggest Child-Health Concern Locally, Nationally

By Bryan Toporek — August 19, 2014 2 min read
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When adults were asked to list their biggest health-related concerns for children, childhood obesity came out on top both locally and nationally, according to a nationwide survey released by the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital last week.

For the survey, a total of 2,027 adults ages 18 and older were asked to rate 26 health issues, such as alcohol abuse, bullying, hunger, Internet safety, and school violence, as a “big problem,” “somewhat of a problem,” or “not a problem.” They completed the same task for children and teens in their own community and for children and teens across the United States.

In total, 29 percent of adults listed childhood obesity as a “big concern” locally, while 55 percent listed it as a “big concern” nationally. That topped the list in both cases, with smoking & tobacco use (26 percent), drug abuse (26 percent) and bullying (23 percent) trailing locally, and bullying (52 percent), drug abuse (49 percent), and smoking and tobacco use (47 percent) next on the national concerns.

Somewhat ironically, “not enough opportunities for physical activity” was one of the 26 issues survey respondents could rank, but it didn’t qualify as nearly as much of a concern. Locally, 15 percent of respondents called it a “big concern,” which placed it 10th overall, while it didn’t finish among the top 10 concerns nationally. (Twenty-six percent of respondents called it a “big concern” nationally, which ranked 20th of the 26 possible issues.)

Here’s a look at the top 10 issues both locally and nationally:

Of course, opportunities for physical activity aren’t the only factor in childhood obesity. A physically active child who makes poor dietary choices could end up overweight or obese, too. Still, given the wealth of research tying increased physical fitness to decreased levels of obesity (not to mention academic benefits), it seems as though increasing the number of opportunities for physical activity should rate as a larger concern if obesity is the No. 1 child-health-related issue worrying adults.

For what it’s worth, U.S. children and youths between the ages of 6 and 15 received a grade of D-minus for their overall physical activity levels in the first-ever United States Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, which was released in May. Just under one-quarter of U.S. children between the ages of 12 and 15 reported obtaining 60 or more minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity on a daily basis, the minimum threshold recommended by the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

Here’s guessing the adults surveyed for the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital report had not consulted said report card before recording their responses.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.