So many of the public health issues we face as Americans have a basis in children’s health. Studies have shown that obese children are five times likelier to be obese as adults than those of normal weight, and children who suffer abuse or neglect often experience serious long-term psychological damage. The government could promote policies to help address these problems, but political candidates often focus on flashier topics during their rallies and speeches — national security, the economy, and more controversial social issues. A new national poll, however, suggests Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton may want to take a moment to address children’s health, because that’s what the people want.

“Children’s health has not necessarily been a major topic in the primary season, but we know from our previous research in this arena that a majority of adults say that a candidate’s position on child health issues can affect their vote in November,” said Dr. Matthew M. Davis, director of the National Poll on Children’s Health and professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, in a press release.

The poll surveyed 2,000 nationally representative adults on the top three child health priorities that they would like presidential candidates to address this election cycle. More than 50 percent chose abuse and neglect, drug abuse, and nutrition and obesity as the areas of most concern. These choices came from a list of eight that researchers had identified as top worries in previous studies. 

children Which areas of children's health are most important to voters? C.S. Mott Children's National Poll on Children's Health

After the top three issues, respondents also marked access to mental health services and the health effects of poverty as priority concerns for children.

“We know that many Americans perceive children’s health being worse today than when they were kids, themselves,” Davis explained. “There is a strong sentiment among adults today that children face a lot of health challenges. That high level of concern translates into these priorities for the presidential candidates.”

The poll report identified a few policies the government could put in place to tackle each of the top issues. To stop abuse before it starts, the authors wrote, the federal government could fund programs to help teach and support parents during children’s early years. The report also suggested that increasing taxes on cigarettes and alcohol has been shown to reduce abuse among young people. The odd problem of having both hunger and obesity affecting children in the United States could benefit from a shared solution: more affordable, accessible healthy food options for low-income families.

“While presidential candidates face many competing demands and expectations for the policy positions they support in their campaigns, our findings suggest that focusing on child health priorities may resonate deeply with voters,” Davis concluded.

Source: C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. National Poll on Children’s Health: Public Identifies Top Child Health Priorities for Presidential Candidates. 2016.