Californians increasingly consider childhood obesity to be a serious state problem, according to Field Poll results (see related document) released today, but voters in low-income areas like Santa Ana still see a greater threat from drug abuse than poor eating habits.

The poll, conducted at the request of the California Endowment in October 2010, surveyed 1,005 registered voters statewide and then, where possible, compared the results to a poll done earlier last year by the Endowment in six low-income areas.

In both the statewide poll and the earlier survey, respondents were given a list of seven potential childhood health dangers and were asked which posed the greatest threat to kids. The list included smoking, unhealthful eating habits, alcohol abuse, unsafe sexual behaviors, illegal drug use, lack of physical activity and violence.

Statewide, 31 percent of voters ranked unhealthy eating habits as the greatest threat, but in the survey of low income areas, unhealthy eating ranked first among only 22 percent of those polls while 33 percent saw illegal drug use as the greatest health threat to children.

Poll Director Mark DiCamillo said when statewide voters were asked eight years earlier what most threatened the health of children, the majority also cited drug use but the current poll shows a significant change in thinking.

The statewide poll results were released today to mark the first anniversary of Michele Obama’s launch of her childhood obesity prevention initiative.

Marion Standish, director of community health for the California Endowment, said the general public, including business and community leaders, are increasingly understanding the importance of physical activity and nutrition.

“Drug use is a symptom of not much else to do in many communities,” she said. As communities move to increase available park space “I think people are coming to understand the interconnection between all of these activities.”

And, she added, “Santa Ana is a perfect example where there is limited or very limited park space or open space (within the community).”

The low-income areas surveyed last year were Baldwin Park, south Los Angeles, the San Antonio neighborhood of Oakland, West Chula Vista, south Shasta County and Santa Ana.

Both statewide voters and low income residents also were asked how important it is for business and government to enact changes. Some of the changes listed were labels on menus, building more parks, sidewalks and bike lanes and limiting the number of fast food restaurants.

Statewide, 44 percent of voters said it was “very important.” In the low-income areas surveyed, it was “very important” to 68 percent.


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