Poll: Adults rank drugs as biggest problem facing kids
Experts say they should worry about poverty, child care
December 8, 1997
Web posted at: 11:20 p.m. EST (0420 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Adults continue to rank drug abuse as the
most troubling problem facing children in America, according
to a new survey. Crime emerged as the second biggest worry,
followed by family breakdown.
But experts were concerned that respondents to the survey
commissioned by the Harvard School of Public Health and the
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation did not rank poverty, child
care and health care among the issues facing children.
"Three issues dominate the public's concern about the future
of children in this country -- drugs, crime and home life
breakdown," said Harvard University's Robert Blendon, who
directed the study.
"What isn't on the list, and this is very important in terms
of politics (and) community service, is poverty among kids,
health care among kids, day care among kids, smoking,
1,500 adults polled
In the survey, 1,500 adults were asked to name the most
serious problems facing American children today. The results:
56 percent named drugs or drug abuse, 24 percent said crime,
17 percent said poor quality of education, and 16.6 percent
said breakdown of home life.
Despite dramatic media coverage of incidents of child abuse,
the survey revealed most Americans do not think it is an
Only 1.2 percent named child abuse and 0.2 percent named
sexual abuse as the most serious problems. By comparison, a
1986 Harris poll of adults found 28 percent ranked child and
sexual abuse as top concerns.
In that poll, 52 percent named drugs as the biggest concern;
46 percent listed breakdown of home life; 9 percent named
alcohol abuse; and another 9 percent cited poor quality
Many unaware of new insurance program
The new survey revealed that many families who qualify for
government-sponsored health insurance for their children
don't know that such insurance exists.
"We have what is called an historic piece of legislation to
try to cover 11 million uninsured children," Blendon said.
"That's the good news. The bad news is we have a nation that
does not know that we've enacted this legislation."
The Social Security Act was amended last August to include
$24 billion over five years to fund the creation and
expansion of health assistance to uninsured, low-income
Only about 26 percent of parents of children without health
insurance knew about the program, according to the survey.
People believe they have to be on welfare to get Medicaid
coverage for their children, said Sarah Shuptrine, president
of the Southern Institute on Families and Children.
"The perception that Medicaid is available only to families
that are dirt poor or only families that are on welfare may
be a large part of the problem," she said.
Quality of health care at issue
Another finding of the new survey: 50 percent of the public
believes that children are better able to get health care
when they need it, and 55 percent believe U.S. children are
healthier than children in many other industrialized nations.
In fact, the U.S. ranks 23rd among 28 other industrialized
nations in infant mortality, according to the November issue
of Health Affairs.
Programs for children's health are competing with others for
the country's attention, Blendon said.
"With the exception of (children's) immunizations, senior
programs dominate America's program for government policies,"
he said. "Kids programs are popular. But programs which
support ... low-income Americans are seen as the least
Reuters contributed to this report.