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AHRQ-Supported Research and Recent Findings

Program Brief

Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable deaths and is associated with many significant health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. This document summarizes research on obesity and overweight supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), including current and completed projects, recent findings, and several conferences.

Introduction

Over the past several decades, the prevalence of obesity among adults and children in the United States has increased dramatically and is now reaching epidemic proportions. The prevalence of obesity in adults in the United States was 30.5 percent in 1999-2000. More than twice as many adults (nearly 65 percent) were considered to be either overweight or obese. Some 6 million U.S. adults were considered morbidly obese in 2001. In 2002, an estimated 15 percent of all children aged 6 to 19 years were overweight.

Obesity is more common in women, but men are more likely to be overweight. Obesity is especially common among African Americans, American Indians, Native Hawaiians, and some Hispanic populations.

Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable deaths; smoking is the first. Obesity is associated with many significant health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, premature death, and decreased quality of life. Even modest weight loss can reduce an individual's risk for these diseases and outcomes.

Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI, weight in kg/height in m2) of 30 or more. For example, a 5'5" woman weighing 180 pounds or more or a 5'11" man weighing 215 pounds or more would be termed obese. Morbid obesity is defined as having a BMI of 40 or more (35 to 40 with medical problems related to obesity). Overweight is defined as having a BMI of 25 to 29.9 (a 5'5" woman who weighs 150 pounds or more or a 5'11" man who weighs 180 pounds or more). A BMI of 20 to 24.9 is considered normal weight, and a BMI under 20 is considered underweight.

In children and adolescents, weight above a normal range has different terms: at risk for overweight and overweight. Being at risk for overweight is defined as a BMI between the 85th and 94th percentile for age and sex; overweight is defined as a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for age and sex.

AHRQ's Commitment

Obesity is a substantial health problem in the United States. It contributes to poor health and functioning, emotional problems, premature death, and escalating health care costs. For many years, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has supported research on obesity and overweight in adults and children. Since 2003, AHRQ has committed nearly $2.8 million to support research on obesity and overweight. This program brief summarizes AHRQ-supported research on obesity and overweight, including current and completed projects, recent findings, and several conferences.

For More Information

Please visit AHRQ's Web site at http://www.ahrq.gov for more information on the Agency's activities related to obesity and overweight, including information about funding opportunities. Or, you may contact:

Iris R. Mabry, M.D., M.P.H.
Senior Advisor for Obesity Initiatives
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
540 Gaither Road
Rockville, MD 20850
Phone: (301) 427-1605
Fax: (301) 427-1595
E-mail: Iris.Mabry@ahrq.hhs.gov

 

*Items in this program brief marked with an asterisk are available free from the AHRQ Clearinghouse. To order, contact the AHRQ Clearinghouse at 1-800-358-9295, or send an E-mail to ahrqpubs@ahrq.hhs.gov. Please use the AHRQ publication number when ordering.

Current as of April 2006
Internet Citation: AHRQ-Supported Research and Recent Findings: Program Brief. April 2006. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/research/findings/factsheets/quality/obesity/index.html