Redrawing the US Obesity Landscape: Bias-Corrected Estimates of State-Specific Adult Obesity Prevalence

Ward, Zachary J.; Long, Michael W.; Resch, Stephen C.; Gortmaker, Steven L.; Cradock, Angie L.; Giles, Catherine; Hsiao, Amber; Wang, Claire

State-level estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) underestimate the obesity epidemic because they use self-reported height and weight. We describe a novel bias-correction method and produce corrected state-level estimates of obesity and severe obesity.

Using non-parametric statistical matching, we adjusted self-reported data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) 2013 (n = 386,795) using measured data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) (n = 16,924). We validated our national estimates against NHANES and estimated bias-corrected state-specific prevalence of obesity (BMI≥30) and severe obesity (BMI≥35). We compared these results with previous adjustment methods.

Compared to NHANES, self-reported BRFSS data underestimated national prevalence of obesity by 16% (28.67% vs 34.01%), and severe obesity by 23% (11.03% vs 14.26%). Our method was not significantly different from NHANES for obesity or severe obesity, while previous methods underestimated both. Only four states had a corrected obesity prevalence below 30%, with four exceeding 40%–in contrast, most states were below 30% in CDC maps.

Twelve million adults with obesity (including 6.7 million with severe obesity) were misclassified by CDC state-level estimates. Previous bias-correction methods also resulted in underestimates. Accurate state-level estimates are necessary to plan for resources to address the obesity epidemic.


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Academic Units
Health Policy and Management
Public Library of Science
Published Here
April 28, 2016