Office of Research & Development

print icon sign up for VA Research updates
VA RESEARCH QUARTERLY UPDATE
This Issue: Chronic Disease Care | Table of Contents: Spring 2017 | Download this issue

Noteworthy Publications

Obesity prevalence among key subgroups in VHA


Certain groups of Vets experience obesity at much greater rates than others.
<em>(Photo: ©stevecoleimages)</em>
Certain groups of Vets experience obesity at much greater rates than others. (Photo for illustrative purposes only. ©stevecoleimages)

Certain groups of Vets experience obesity at much greater rates than others. (Photo for illustrative purposes only. ©stevecoleimages)

Worldwide obesity has reached epidemic proportions. In the U.S., obesity prevalence is estimated at 38 percent nationwide. Among the 5 million Veterans who use the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) for their primary care, 37 percent are overweight and 41 percent are obese, according to VA researchers.

Dr. Jessica Breland is a researcher with the Center for Innovation to Implementation at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System in California. She and her team reviewed 2014 data from the Women's Health Evaluation Initiative and VHA Vital Signs to evaluate and describe the prevalence of obesity within key VHA population subgroups. They published their findings in the April 2017 issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Given the high prevalence of obesity among Veterans who use the VHA, the researchers felt it was important to look at variables such as gender, age, rural or urban residence, and race and ethnicity to better target weight-loss programs and treatments like bariatric surgery. They found significant differences in obesity prevalence in different subgroups of Veterans.

Of the total sample of 4.9 million Veterans, more than 347,000 were women. Obesity prevalence for women was 44 percent, compared to 41 percent for men. Other significant findings include:

  • 72 percent of Veterans with sleep apnea were obese
  • 68 percent of women with diabetes were obese
  • 56 percent of women with schizophrenia were obese
  • 52 percent of men who served in the Gulf War I/pre-OEF/OIF/OND era were obese
  • 46 percent of Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander Veterans were obese

"VHA's weight management initiatives have the potential to avert long-term morbidity arising from obesity-related conditions," note the authors. "High-risk groups...may require particular attention to ensure that systems improvement efforts at the population level do not inadvertently increase health disparities."

* Click here to view an infograph of key data from this study.


Questions about the R&D website? Email the Web Team.

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.