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

Littman AJ, Haselkorn JK, Arterburn DE, Boyko EJ. Pilot randomized trial of a telephone-delivered physical activity and weight management intervention for individuals with lower extremity amputation. Disabil Health J. 2018 Aug 10. pii: S1936-6574(18)30145-6. doi: 10.1016/j.dhjo.2018.08.002. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

O'Brien R, Johnson E, Haneuse S, Coleman KJ, O'Connor PJ, Fisher DP, Sidney S, Bogart A, Theis MK, Anau J, Schroeder EB, Arterburn D. Microvascular outcomes in patients with diabetes after bariatric surgery versus usual care: a matched cohort study. Ann Intern Med. 2018 Aug 7. pii: 2696493. doi: 10.7326/M17-2383. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

McMullen C, Bulkley J, Corley DA, Madrid S, Davis AQ, Hesselbrock R, Kurtilla F, Anderson CK, Arterburn D, Somkin CP, Pawloski PA, Ghai NR, Feigelson HS. Health care improvement and survivorship priorities of colorectal cancer survivors: findings from the PORTAL colorectal cancer cohort survey. Support Care Cancer. 2018 Jun 12. pii: 10.1007/s00520-018-4299-6. doi: 10.1007/s00520-018-4299-6. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Arterburn D, Gupta A. Surgical procedures for patients with severe obesity-reply. JAMA. 2018;319(20):2137. doi: 10.1001/jama.2018.4116. PubMed

Kim DD, Arterburn DE, Sullivan SD, Basu A. Economic value of greater access to bariatric procedures for patients with severe obesity and diabetes. Med Care. 2018 May 12. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000924. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed


latest News

Kaiser Permanente Researchers Study Bariatric Surgery for Obese Teens

In this Q&A, Dr. David Arterburn describes findings from the largest study in adolescents to date.

Read it in News and Events.

News Release

Weight-loss surgery linked to fewer diabetes complications

Aug. 6, 2018Large, long-term study finds half as much nerve, kidney, and eye disease after bariatric surgery than with usual care.

Read it in News and Events.

Video: PCORnet Bariatric Study


Bariatric Surgery Study Generating Real World Data to Support Informed Decisions

Dr. David Arterburn discusses one of PCORnet's first observational studies and how the network is a game changer in the generation of real-world evidence to inform patients and their caregivers on the risks and benefits of bariatric surgery.

(YouTube, 3:13)

PCORnet Bariatric Study

Providing real-world data to help make informed decisions about bariatric surgery.

Learn about the PCORnet Bariatric Study.



Moving to Health

Where you live can affect your health, and a $2.67-million NIDDK-funded UW/KPWHRI project explores how.

(Vimeo, 2:10)