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Californians Are More Worried About Kids' Obesity Than Drug Use

02/12/2014 06:06 pm ET | Updated Feb 12, 2014
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Californians are far more concerned about children becoming obese than using illicit drugs, a Field Poll released today reports.

Since voters were last polled on perceived threats to children’s health in 2003, the top two concerns -- unhealthy eating and lack of exercise -- rose from being cited by 53 percent of Californians to 59 percent. Meanwhile, illegal drug use remained the third highest perceived threat, but shrank from 49 to 43 percent.

“These findings are a clear indication that there is a longstanding groundswell of concern among California voters about the related epidemics of diabetes and obesity,” Dr. George Flores of The California Endowment stated in the press release.

A majority surveyed support initiatives encouraging healthy diet and exercise. “Voters strongly support interventions that will reduce risks for these conditions, such as access to free clean drinking water and community health workers to help people live healthier lives in healthier places,” Flores said.

That childhood obesity is a priority concern for California voters is good news for health advocates and lawmakers pushing policies like the statewide soda tax. Researchers suggest the move would save hundreds of millions of dollars in medical costs and reduce new diabetes cases by tens of thousands.

"Looking at these results, wow, the public is really starting to absorb a lot of the things we've been telling them for a long time," Dr. Carolyn Jasik of UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Not only are they hearing that obesity is a problem, but they're hearing how to make it better. They're getting it from the media, the government, their doctors, their schools. It's on everybody's mind now."

Given government findings that a whopping 18 percent of American children ages 6 to 19 are obese, it’s no surprise voters are catching on to the troubling phenomenon -- and that may mean embracing government policies aimed at improving and restricting American children’s diet.

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