Obesity is top health concern for children, cancer the biggest concern for adults in the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll

Kentucky adults said cancer is the top health concern for both men and women in the Commonwealth, while obesity is the top concern for children, according to the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll.

The poll, taken Sept. 11 through Oct. 19, found that 25 percent of Kentucky adults said obesity was the most important health issue facing children, followed by problems with health insurance and health care (10 percent), cancer (8 percent) and hunger or malnutrition (6 percent).

“One in four adults said obesity was biggest health issue for Kentucky’s children, and they’re right,” said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, co-sponsor of the poll.

“Unhealthy weights during childhood lead to a myriad of chronic conditions in adulthood, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and bone and joint problems,” Chandler said. “We’ve made some progress with our youngest children, but Kentucky ranks near the bottom, 40th out of 43 states reporting, for high school student obesity rates.”

As for adults’ concerns, cancer was followed by heart disease, problems with health insurance or health care, and obesity. Cancer and heart disease are leading causes of death for both men and women in Kentucky; Kentucky’s cancer death rate is the nation’s highest.

Kentucky leads the nation in obesity rates for both adults and children, ranking fifth for adult obesity and third for high-school obesity, and the numbers keep rising.

Source: State of Obesity report

The obesity rate among high-school students increased to 18.5 percent in 2015 from 16.5 percent in 2011, and the adult obesity rate rose to 34.6 percent from 30.4 percent in the same period, says The State of Obesity report. But the rate for toddlers (ages 2-4) decreased to 13.5 percent, from 15.6 percent.

The foundation’s “Investing in Kentucky’s Future” initiative provides funding, training and technical assistance to six community health coalitions across the state toward improving the health of Kentucky’s children so that they can grow up to be healthy adults. The hope is that these programs can be replicated in other parts of the state.

The poll also found that concerns about Kentucky’s children being hungry and malnourished have increased since 2010, the last time the KHIP asked this question. The concern was voiced by 6 percent in 2016, up from 1 percent in 2010. This lines up with reported increases in food insecurity for children in the state, at 23 percent in 2014,  up from19 percent in 2010, according to the latest data available from the Annie B. Casey Foundation’s national Kids Count data center.

Concerns about health insurance and health care have also increased since 2010, with around 10 percent of respondents saying health-insurance and health-care problems were an important issue for each population in 2016. In 2010, 4 percent of women and 2 percent of men said they were concerned about health care or health insurance.

The poll was conducted by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati and was funded by the foundation and Interact for Health, formerly the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati. It surveyed a random sample of 1,580 Kentucky adults via landlines and cell phones, and each result has an error margin of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

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