Californians are more worried about kids getting fat than using illegal drugs, according to a Field Poll released Wednesday.
The poll, conducted for the California Endowment, shows that the number of Californians who list unhealthy eating or a lack of physical activity among kids' two top health risks grew from 53 percent a decade ago to 59 percent today.
In contrast, the percentage of Californians who felt drug use among children was one of the top two risks decreased from 49 percent to 43 percent.
"These findings are a clear indication that there is a long-standing groundswell of concern among California voters about the related epidemics of diabetes and obesity," said Dr. George Flores of the California Endowment, a private foundation established in 1996 to expand access to health care.
The next most frequently mentioned threat -- fear of violence against children -- was cited by 31 percent of poll respondents. No figure was available from 2003.
In other poll findings:
Alcohol abuse: Sixteen percent of Californians are worried about youngsters overimbibing, compared with 26 percent in 2003.
Smoking: Eleven percent fear youngsters are in peril of becoming smokers, compared with 24 percent 10 years ago.
Unsafe sex: Today only 10 percent of Californians fear youngsters will engage in risky sexual behavior, compared with 28 percent in 2003.
The poll of 1,002 registered voters throughout California was conducted in English and Spanish Nov. 14 to Dec.5. The poll had an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.
By wide margins, the poll showed that Californians across all income and racial groups feel it's highly important to involve local community health workers in the fight to help reduce diabetes and that such services should be covered under Medi-Cal, the joint federal-state program that provides health coverage for the poor.
"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.
While concerns about unhealthy eating and a lack of physical activity are significant statewide, it was found to be the greatest among voters in the nine-county Bay Area and Los Angeles County.
Nearly all Californians (93 percent) support the idea of making clean, fresh drinking water free in schools in any area where students eat meals or are physically active.
Eighty-one percent also favor enacting "policies to increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in low-income neighborhoods."
The poll also found:
The poll also found the public has a positive impression (73 percent) of community health workers as vital to the fight to prevent and manage diabetes. Such workers are seen as key links between doctors and patients to help the latter be more physically active, eat healthier and habitually do monitoring of their conditions with regular checks of blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Contact David E. Early at 408-920-5836.