David E. Arterburn, MD, MPH

“It's critical that we find cost-effective ways to reduce obesity. My research examines the long-term effects of behavioral, pharmaceutical, and surgical treatments and promotes shared decision-making between patients and their providers.” 

David Arterburn, MD, MPH

Senior Investigator, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute
Physician, Washington Permanente Medical Group, Internal Medicine

Areas of focus:


David Arterburn, MD, MPH, is a general internist and health services researcher who focuses on finding safe, effective, and innovative ways to treat obesity. As a national leader in obesity research, his goal is to help individuals and families make treatment decisions that align with their values while sustaining their health over the long haul.

Dr. Arterburn's research portfolio includes policy-level interventions for health plans, behavioral and lifestyle interventions for weight loss, pharmaco-epidemiology, the long-term outcomes of bariatric surgery, and shared decision making related to elective surgery. In 2016 he launched a two-year, $4.5 million study comparing the health benefits and safety associated with the three main types of bariatric surgery: Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, and adjustable gastric banding. Funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, the study aims to give patients and their health care providers the information they need to decide which type of surgery is best for them. He is also co-leading Kaiser Permanente Washington’s evaluation of a new technology-based lifestyle program to support people after bariatric surgery.

Among Dr. Arterburn’s other recent projects is a large, multi-site study among veterans that showed Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery led to sustained weight loss and better long-term survival than non-surgical treatment. He also recently co-led research at Kaiser Permanente Washington that suggested the antidepressant bupropion was most likely to help people with depression and obesity to control their weight.

Dr. Arterburn has collaborated with Kaiser Permanente Washington's specialty leadership to implement and evaluate shared decision making with patient decision aids to support elective surgical care. The approach has shown great promise for improving the quality of health care while simultaneously lowering the costs of care in some populations.

Dr. Arterburn joined Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in 2006. In recognition of his contributions to science, he has been named a Fellow of the American College of Physicians (FACP) and of The Obesity Society (FTOS). Dr. Arterburn is past chair of the Adult Obesity Measurement Advisory Panel sponsored by the National Committee on Quality Assurance, founding chair of the Obesity Society's Health Services Research Section, and past chair of Health Care Systems Research Network's Obesity Special Interest Group. In 2013 he co-chaired the Symposium on the Long-Term Outcomes of Bariatric Surgery, which was convened by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. He is also an affiliate professor in the University of Washington Department of Medicine. 

Areas of research focus

  • Obesity

    Bariatric surgery; health services research; economics and risk adjustment; pharmaceutical outcomes research

  • Health Services & Economics

    Obesity prevention and control

  • Medication Use & Patient Safety

    Pharmaco-epidemiology, pharmacogenetics, pharmaceutical outcomes research

  • Patient/Provider Interaction

    Shared decision making

Recent publications

Fisher D, Coleman KJ, Arterburn DE, Fischer H, Yamamoto A, Young DR, Sherwood NE, Trinacty CM, Lewis KH. Mental illness in bariatric surgery: a cohort study from the PORTAL network. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2017 May;25(5):850-856. doi: 10.1002/oby.21814. PubMed

Feigelson HS, McMullen CK, Madrid S, Sterrett AT, Powers JD, Blum-Barnett E, Pawloski PA, Ziegenfuss JY, Quinn VP, Arterburn DE, Corley DA. Optimizing patient-reported outcome and risk factor reporting from cancer survivors: a randomized trial of four different survey methods among colorectal cancer survivors. J Cancer Surviv. 2017 Jan 13. doi: 10.1007/s11764-017-0596-1. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Hsu C, Liss DT, Frosch DL, Westbrook EO, Arterburn D. Exploring provider reactions to decision aid distribution and shared decision making: lessons from two specialties. Med Decis Making. 2017;37(1):113-126. Epub 2016 Oct 6. PubMed

Maciejewski ML, Arterburn DE, Van Scoyoc L, Smith VA, Yancy WS Jr, Weidenbacher HJ, Livingston EH, Olsen MK. Bariatric surgery and long-term durability of weight loss. JAMA Surg. 2016 Aug 31. doi: 10.1001/jamasurg.2016.2317 [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Young DR, Waitzfelder BA, Arterburn D, Nichols GA, Ferrara A, Koebnick C, Yamamoto A, Daley MF, Sherwood NE, Horberg MA, Cromwell L, Lewis KH. The Patient Outcomes Research To Advance Learning (PORTAL) network adult overweight/obesity cohort: development and description. JMIR Res Protoc. 2016 Jun 15;5(2):e87. doi: 10.2196/resprot.5589. PubMed


Bicycle Month

Bring a coworker on your bicycle commute. It’ll all be downhill from there.

For National Bike month, Alex Fleig recalls his first ride to work. In spite of a hill and an emergency repair along the way, a bicycle commuter was born.

Read about it in Healthy Findings.

Latest News

How can we use technology to support patients after bariatric surgery?

With funding from the Partnership for Innovation, GHRI is evaluating a new technology-based lifestyle program designed by Group Health bariatric surgeons.

Read about it in News and Events.

healthy findings blog

Bariatric surgery keeps weight off in long term

Weight loss persisted for 10 years with Roux-en-Y gastric bypass in Dr. Arterburn’s large multisite study of veterans.

Read it in Healthy Findings.

latest news

One antidepressant shown to control weight during 2-year study

Research at Group Health points to bupropion (Wellbutrin) as first choice for overweight and obese patients with depression.

Read it in News and Events.

funding news

PCORI approves Group Health for $4.5 million obesity study

Study leader Dr. David Arterburn will use PCORnet, new national clinical research network, to speed results.

Read it in News and Events.

KPWHRI In the Media

Surgery for obesity is linked to longer survival

Weight-loss surgery cuts risk of death among morbidly obese

Seattle Times, Jan 6, 2015