A new poll released today shows a large gap between parents’ perceptions of their children’s weight and expert definitions. According to their parents, 15% of children are a little or very overweight, while national data suggest more than twice as many, or 32% of all children, are overweight or obese. The poll was conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), and Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).

In addition, only 20% of children in households that participated in this poll had a parent who was concerned that his or her child will be overweight as an adult. However, it is estimated that 69% of adults are overweight, including 36% who are obese and an additional 6% who have “extreme obesity.” Together, these results indicate that parents may underestimate their children’s current risk for being overweight or obese, and how that risk could continue to impact them as adults.

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“We know that nearly one in three kids in America is overweight or obese, and that’s a national emergency,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, RWJF president and CEO. “Better nutrition and more physical activity can help turn this epidemic around, and parents have a unique role to play. Knowing the risks of obesity and dealing with the issue proactively can improve kids’ health now and prevent serious problems down the road.”

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