The study found that 91 percent of American children have poor diets and get less than 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Two-thirds of children consume a sugar-sweetened beverage on any given day.

For the past 14 years, “The State of Obesity” has raised awareness about the seriousness of the nation’s obesity epidemic. This annual report, published by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, shows obesity continues to be a major problem.

The adult obesity rate now exceeds 35 percent in five states, 30 percent in 25 states and 25 percent in 46 states. “Obese” is defined as having a body mass index score of 30 or higher. In Missouri, the current adult obesity rate is 31.7 percent, placing Missouri at 17th in the state ranking of high obesity rates.

Although fairly stable from last year, our state’s current obesity rate is up from 21.4 percent in 2000 and from 11.3 percent in 1990. The national average adult obesity rate is 38 percent with 8 percent of the population struggling with extreme obesity, defined as a body mass index of 40 or higher. The top five states for obesity rates were West Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas.

Childhood obesity in Missouri stayed steady last year at 13 percent. The national average also remained stable at 17 percent. But this is still one out of every six children who is obese.

The study found that 91 percent of American children have poor diets and get less than 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Two-thirds of children consume a sugar-sweetened beverage on any given day. A quarter of kids watch three or more hours of television on an average school day.

Obesity continues to be a problem of national concern for the following reasons.

Financial. Obesity costs our nation $150 billion in health care costs annually, and billions more are lost in productivity.

National Security. Weight is the leading cause of medical disqualification in the military, with approximately 25 percent of applicants rejected for exceeding weight or body fat standards or simply not being fit enough. Obese service members and their obese family members cost the military $1 billion a year in health care costs and lost productivity. Mission: Readiness reports that 70 percent of today’s youth are not fit to serve due to obesity or being overweight, criminal records, drug misuse or educational deficits.

Community Safety. Among firefighters, 70 percent are obese or overweight, putting them at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of line-duty deaths. Police officers have a shorter-than-average life expectancy, in part due to higher-than-average obesity rates.

Child Development/Academic Achievement. Childhood obesity correlates with poor educational performance and increased risk of bullying and depression.

Equity. Obesity disproportionately affects low-income and rural communities as well as certain racial and ethnic groups. Where families live, learn, work and play all have an impact on the choices they are able to make. Healthy foods are often more expensive and less available in these neighborhoods. Safe, accessible places to be active can be difficult to find, especially for children.

Preventing obesity in children is easier and less costly than reversing obesity later in life. To succeed in raising healthy children, parents and caregivers need education and support in offering healthy food and beverage choices and adequate physical activity.

Following the 5210 Rule, endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, can help: Aim for 5 fruits and vegetables a day, restrict screen time to 2 hours per day, include at least 1 hour of physical activity, and aim for zero sugar-sweetened beverages.