“We’re looking for innovative ways to both treat and prevent obesity—including creating healthier environments and designing programs for whole families.”

David Arterburn, MD, MPH
Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute Senior Investigator
Washington Permanente Medical Group, Internal Medicine

Research overview

“Obesity is the number-one health problem in the United States because it negatively affects our population’s health more than any other condition,” said Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute senior investigator David Arterburn, MD, MPH. Kaiser Permanente Washington researchers are doing practical research to learn how doctors, patients, families, employers, and policymakers can best work together to prevent and treat obesity.

“We’re focusing on three ways to halt the obesity epidemic,” said associate investigator Dori Rosenberg, PhD, MPH. “We’re helping to change obesity-promoting environments, bringing evidence-based prevention and treatment programs into health care systems, and helping people develop lifelong healthy diet and activity habits.”

Kaiser Permanente Washington obesity research areas include:

  • reducing sedentary behavior and promoting physical activity and healthy diet in various age groups, populations with chronic conditions, and families;
  • shared decision making to help patients find the best way to a healthy weight;
  • implementing health coaches in primary care to support behavior changes;
  • social networks that support lifestyle change programs;
  • relationships between medications and genetic factors in developing obesity;
  • health system, community, and national policies that address obesity;
  • relationships between obesity and depression, diabetes, and other conditions; and
  • long-term benefits and risks of bariatric (weight loss) surgery.

“Obesity is caused by many factors, so at Kaiser Permanente Washington, we’re working on many levels,” said Paula Lozano, MD, MPH, a senior investigator and Kaiser Permanente Washington’s assistant medical director for preventive care. “We’re improving health care to help people who are obese now. But since obesity is a societal problem, we’re also studying how to change our homes and workplaces and neighborhoods to create more healthy environments.”

Recent publications on

Arterburn DE, McDonell MB, Hedrick SC, Diehr P, Fihn SD. Association of body weight with condition-specific quality of life in male veterans. Am J Med. 2004;117(10):738-46. PubMed

Green BB. Commentary on: Effect of individual counseling on physical activity fitness and health: a randomized controlled trial in a workplace setting. Evidence-based Healthcare. 2003;7:138-9.

Green BB, McAfee T, Hindmarsh M, Madsen L, Caplow M, Buist D. Effectiveness of telephone support in increasing physical activity levels in primary care patients. Am J Prev Med. 2002;22(3):177-83. PubMed

Chhabra KR, Telem DA, Chao GF, Arterburn DE, Yang J, Thumma JR, Ryan AM, Blumental B, Dimick JB. Comparative safety of sleeve gastrectomy and gastric bypass: an instrumental variables approach. Ann Surg. 2020 Nov 12. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000004297. PubMed

Researchers in