Chicago Parents Identify Top 10 Social Issues for Youth in the City

February 22, 2019
  • Gun violence, bullying and poverty top the list
  • School violence (ranked #7) was a greater concern for younger parents
  • Social media (ranked #8) was a greater concern for parents with older children


In a new survey released by Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), Chicago parents identified gun violence, bullying and poverty as the biggest social problems for children and adolescents in the city. The survey included parents from all 77 community areas in Chicago.

“We see that the top 10 list of social issues for youth according to parents in Chicago includes concerns that describe interpersonal interactions, such as gun violence, bullying and social media. The top 10 list also includes concerns that are based on circumstances, such as poverty and unsafe housing,” says Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP, Senior Vice President and Chief of Community Health Transformation at Lurie Children’s, and Professor of Pediatrics, Medicine, Medical Social Sciences, and Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “At Lurie Children’s, we have programs that address both of these categories through strong partnerships with many community organizations. Collaborations are key when tackling social challenges for youth. It requires teamwork across neighborhoods and across the city.”

The top 10 list of social issues affecting children and adolescents in Chicago, as viewed by parents includes:

  1. Gun violence – 87 percent
  2. Bullying and Cyberbullying – 76 percent
  3. Poverty – 74 percent
  4. Lack of Adult Supervision – 73 percent
  5. Racism and Discrimination – 70 percent
  6. Racial Disparities in Health – 69 percent
  7. Violence in School – 68 percent
  8. Social Media – 65 percent
  9. Not Enough Job Opportunities for Parents – 65 percent
  10. Unsafe Housing – 62 percent

Results are based on the 2017-18 Healthy Chicago Survey, Jr., that was developed by Lurie Children’s in collaboration with the CDPH Office of Epidemiology and Research. Phone interviews were conducted December 2017 through June 2018 with 3,310 adults, including 1,002 parents, in randomly selected households across Chicago. To share the survey results, Dr. Davis launched “Voices of Child Health in Chicago,” a research program focused on bringing the perspectives of Chicagoans to inform dialogue and action about child health in the city. On a regular basis, data briefs will be issued that report on a wide range of survey result topics. 

“We know that to improve health outcomes we need to improve the determinants of health. We also know that we can't do it alone, it takes strong partnerships working together to address inequities, and we are thrilled to partner with Lurie Children’s to make these important data available,” said CDPH Commissioner Julie Morita, MD. “Chicago has made considerable progress over the past several years to improve the health and well-being of children, but our work is not done. Knowing the primary concerns of parents and care-givers we can begin to support families to achieve better health outcomes.”

To address some of the social circumstances that affect children and adolescents, Lurie Children’s is partnering with other hospitals and community organizations on initiatives such as Chicago HEAL and West Side United to create economic opportunities in underserved neighborhoods.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin’s Chicago HEAL Initiative (Hospital Engagement, Action and Leadership) brings together 10 of the largest hospitals serving Chicago with the common goal to reduce violence and improve health in Chicago’s most underserved neighborhoods.

“If we are serious about reducing gun violence and health disparities in Chicago, we have to deal with trauma and other social determinants of health. Lurie Children’s understands this and has demonstrated a serious commitment to improving health beyond its hospital walls through the Chicago HEAL Initiative and other efforts. I look forward to continuing to work with Lurie Children’s and other hospitals to address these issues,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.

Aside from Lurie Children’s, the hospitals participating in Chicago HEAL are: Advocate Christ Medical Center, AMITA Health’s Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center, Cook County Health and Hospital System, Loyola University Medical Center, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Rush University Medical Center, Sinai Health System, University of Chicago Medical Center, and University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences Systems.

In efforts to prevent violence, Lurie Children’s also convenes a collaborative called Strengthening Chicago Youth (SCY) that connects and mobilizes the community to confront this critical issue. SCY also provides training, support and evidence-based strategies for violence prevention.

Lurie Children’s also houses the Center for Childhood Resilience, which provides training and outreach to school professionals, community agencies, city leaders, and parents to increase young people's access to mental health services and build trauma-informed communities.

Population-focused child health research at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is conducted through the Mary Ann & J. Milburn Smith Child Health Research, Outreach, and Advocacy Center at the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute. The Manne Research Institute is focused on improving child health, transforming pediatric medicine and ensuring healthier futures through the relentless pursuit of new knowledge. Lurie Children’s is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals in the U.S. News & World Report. It is the pediatric training ground for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Last year, the hospital served more than 212,000 children from 49 states and 51 countries.