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

Inge T, Coley RY, Bazzano LA, Xanthakos SA, McTigue K, Arterburn D, Williams N, Wellman R, Coleman KJ, Courcoulas A, Desai NK, Anau J, Pardee R, Toh S, Janning C, Cook A, Sturtevant J, Horgan C, Zebrick AJ, Michalsky M. Comparative effectiveness of bariatric procedures among adolescents: the PCORnet bariatric study. Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2018 Apr 17. doi: 10.1016/j.soard.2018.04.002.

Young DR, Fischer H, Arterburn D, Bessesen D, Cromwell L, Daley MF, Desai J, Ferrara A, Fitzpatrick SL, Horberg MA, Koebnick C, Nau CL, Oshiro C, Waitzfelder B, Yamamoto A. Associations of overweight/obesity and socioeconomic status with hypertension prevalence across racial and ethnic groups. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2018 Feb 12. doi: 10.1111/jch.13217. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Rosenberg DE, Lee AK, Anderson M, Renz A, Matson TE, Kerr J, Arterburn D, McClure JB. Reducing sedentary time for obese older adults: protocol for a randomized controlled trial. JMIR Res Protoc. 2018;7(2):e23. doi: 10.2196/resprot.8883. PubMed

Arterburn D, Gupta A. Comparing the outcomes of sleeve gastrectomy and roux-en-y gastric bypass for severe obesity. JAMA. 2018 Jan 16;319(3):235-237. doi: 10.1001/jama.2017.20449. PubMed

Toh S, Rasmussen-Torvik LJ, Harmata EE, Pardee R, Saizan R, Malanga E, Sturtevant JL, Horgan CE, Anau J, Janning CD, Wellman RD, Coley RY, Cook AJ, Courcoulas AP, Coleman KJ, Williams NA, McTigue KM, Arterburn D, McClay J for the PCORnet Bariatric Study Collaborative. The national Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network (PCORnet) bariatric study cohort: rationale, methods, and baseline characteristics. JMIR Res Protoc. 2017 Dec 5;6(12):e222. doi: 10.2196/resprot.8323. PubMed


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.

healthy findings blog

Two types of bariatric surgery give similar outcomes at 5 years

But longer follow-up is needed to compare sleeve vs. bypass, says Dr. Arterburn, who wrote a JAMA editorial with Dr. Gupta.

Read it in Healthy Findings.

KPWHRI In the Media


Medicine’s best obesity treatment is also its most misunderstood

Vox, Dec. 7, 2017



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)


Bariatric surgery may lower cancer risk in people with severe obesity

Dr. David Arterburn and colleagues report encouraging findings about how weight loss surgery may affect cancer development—particularly in women.

Read about it in News and Events.