Survey: 31% of U.S. children are overweight or obese

The 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health, released Sept. 19, revealed 31.2 percent of American children age 10 to 17 are either overweight or obese.

Overweight was defined as being between the 85th and 95th percentile for body mass index (BMI), while obese was defined as the 95th percentile or above. The survey included 24,405 respondents and used percentages and population estimates to represent the entire child population in the U.S.

In response, American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown challenged elected officials to prioritize investments in better nutrition and exercise for children and adolescents.

“While there are glimpses of progress in some states based on the new National Survey of Children’s Health, the fact remains that three out of 10 children ages 10 to 17 are either overweight or obese, putting them at increased risk of developing lifelong chronic diseases,” Brown said in a statement. “Continuing to improve access to healthy, affordable foods throughout every child’s day is critical to heart health. As a nation, our work to improve nutrition and physical activity begins in early child care, every school and neighborhood.”

Tennessee had the highest percentage of overweight or obese children at 37.7 percent, followed by North Dakota (37.1), Mississippi (37), Florida (36.6) and Rhode Island (36.3). Utah, at 19.2 percent, was the only state with fewer than one-fifth of children in the overweight or obese categories.

The survey also included underweight (less than fifth percentile of BMI) and normal weight (fifth to less than 85th percentile) categories. Nationwide, 6.3 percent of children fell in the underweight group, while 62.6 percent were of normal weight.