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Survey Shows Children of Smokers Twice As Likely to be in Worse Health

March 25, 2020

Chicago parent survey also reveals child health disparities based on income, race/ethnicity and neighborhood factors

Chicago parents who currently smoke cigarettes were twice as likely to have a child in worse health (29 percent) than parents who never smoked (16 percent), according to the latest survey of parents released by Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH). Child health disparities were also observed in relation to family income, race/ethnicity and neighborhood safety.

“We found a striking association between parental smoking and parents’ reports of worse child health, which is consistent with previous research that shows increased rates of child asthma and other respiratory conditions associated with parents who smoke,” says Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP, Interim Chair of Pediatrics 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. “Our finding underscores the need to help parents quit smoking in efforts to improve the health of their children.”

The survey also found that children living in families with household income below the federal poverty line (which in 2019 was $25,750 for a family of four) were less likely to be in better health (75 percent) compared with children of low to middle income families (85 percent) and children of families with higher household income (94 percent).

Children of color also tended to be in worse health than white children. The survey revealed that 76 percent of Latinx children and 85 percent of black children were in better health, compared to 92 percent of white children.

Neighborhood safety was associated with child health as well. Parents who reported feeling safe in their neighborhood were more likely to have a child in better health (86 percent) than parents who only felt safe in their neighborhood sometimes (79 percent) and those who did not feel safe in their neighborhood (70 percent).

Survey results are based on the second wave of data collected through the Healthy Chicago Survey, Jr. (2018-19), that was developed by Dr. Davis in collaboration with the CDPH Office of Epidemiology and Research. Phone interviews were conducted with 2,982 adults, including 740 parents, December 2018 through May 2019. Households across Chicago were randomly selected, with participants in all 77 community areas. Parents were asked about the health status of their children using a five-option scale. Children who were reported to be in “excellent” or “very good” health were grouped as having “better” health status. Children who were reported to be in “good,” “fair,” or “poor” health were grouped as having “worse” health status.

To share the survey results, Dr. Davis and his team at Lurie Children’s 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 are issued that report on a wide range of survey result topics that affect youth health. 

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 220,000 children from 48 states and 49 countries.

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