A comparison of national estimates of obesity prevalence from the behavioral risk factor surveillance system and the national health and nutrition examination survey
Brownson, R C
Yun, S and Zhu, B-P and Black, W and Brownson, R C (2006) A comparison of national estimates of obesity prevalence from the behavioral risk factor surveillance system and the national health and nutrition examination survey. International Journal of Obesity, 30 (1). pp. 164-170.
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Background: Obesity interventions are implemented at state or sub-state level in the United States (US), where only self-reported weight and height data for adults are available from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). The prevalence estimates of overweight and obesity generated from self-reported weight and height from BRFSS are known to underestimate the true prevalence. However, whether this underestimation is consistent across different demographic groups has not been fully investigated. Methods: In this study, we compared the prevalence estimates of obesity (body mass index (BMI) 30 kg/m2) and overweight (BMI 25 kg/m2) in different demographic groups in the US from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and BRFSS during 1999–2000. We also compared the rank orders of the obesity and overweight prevalence across different demographic groups from the two data sources. Results: Compared to NHANES, BRFSS underestimated the overall prevalence of obesity and overweight by 9.5 and 5.7 percentage points, respectively. The underestimation differed across different demographic groups: the underestimation of obesity and overweight prevalence was higher among women (13.1 and 12.2 percentage points, respectively) than among men (5.8 and -0.6 percentage points, respectively). The variation of underestimation was higher among men. A clear inverse association between educational attainment and obesity prevalence among non-Hispanic African American women was observed from BRFSS data. However, no such association was found from NHANES. While BRFSS can identify correctly the population with the highest obesity and overweight burden, it did not accurately rank the obesity and overweight prevalence across different demographic groups. Conclusion: Compared to NHANES, BRFSS disproportionately underestimates the prevalence of obesity and overweight across different gender, race, age, and education subgroups.