Obesity: Overview of prevalence, etiology, and treatment

Susan B. Racette, Susan S. Deusinger, Robert H. Deusinger

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Obesity is a chronic and dangerous condition that predisposes people to numerous serious health disorders and premature death. Body mass index is the most commonly used indicator of obesity today. Although influenced by genetics, the current obesity epidemic appears to be driven principally by behavioral and environmental factors. Lifestyle factors, including high-energy diets and lack of physical activity, are the greatest contributors to the energy imbalance that causes overweight and obesity. Although the relative contributions of increased food intake and decreased energy expenditure to America's expanding waistline are uncertain, it is evident that our environment promotes overindulgence and at the same time facilitates sedentary behaviors. Efforts to curb the escalating incidence of obesity in order to reduce morbidity and mortality are critical, and substantial resources have been devoted to these efforts both nationally and internationally. There is a consensus that a multidimensional approach, with individualized treatment options, is important for successful obesity treatment. However, despite numerous treatment methods, prevention strategies, and the billions of dollars spent on weight control efforts each year, eradication of obesity does not appear to be in the foreseeable future. In light of much evidence that reversal of obesity generally is difficult and long-term success rates are low, strategies to prevent obesity are essential and potentially more effective than obesity treatment regimens for controlling the current obesity epidemic. A multidisciplinary approach involving physical therapists and other health care providers can be an important step toward combating the obesity epidemic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-288
Number of pages13
JournalPhysical therapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2003


  • Body mass index
  • Body weight
  • Obesity
  • Overweight


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