One out of every six children in the United States is obese—and adults are taking notice. Childhood obesity is now the number one health concern for youth, up from number three last year, according to the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.
"Over the past two decades the rates of childhood obesity have tripled," says Dr. Matthew M. Davis, director of the National Poll. "We believe that the public is responding to the strong message from doctors and health professionals."
More than 2,000 adults participated in the poll in April, ranking 20 health concerns in order of importance. Drug abuse and smoking rounded out the top three "biggest health problems." The rest of the top 10 included bullying, Internet safety, child abuse and neglect, teen pregnancy, alcohol abuse, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and sexually transmitted infections (tied for ninth) and chemicals in the environment and lack of opportunities for physical activity (tied for 10th).
Bullying, ADHD and environmental toxins were new to the top 10 this year. Davis says he expected toxins to make the list because of the increased interest in the environment over the past year. "And we know that Attention Deficit Disorder is one of the most common health problems that brings children to doctors. So it’s not surprising that it ranks in the top 10," he says. "We were surprised to see (bullying) be a number four concern. This points out the severity of the problem."
While Davis says he anticipates some of these issues to rise in the rankings over the next several years, he hopes obesity will leave the number one slot. "Childhood obesity is most certainly one of the greatest challenges we have as doctors and parents to help our kids lead healthier lives."