The effectiveness of screening for obesity in primary care: Weighing the evidence

Amy R. Wilson, Donna D McAlpine

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


In response to growing alarm about the increase in the prevalence of obesity in the United States, several organizations have recommended that physicians screen their adult patients for this condition and initiate treatment. Screening can be an effective intervention when the condition is grave and prevalent, when an accurate test exists, when effective treatment exists, when the screening program itself does not pose undue risks, and when early detection and treatment improve outcomes. This article critically reviews the evidence supporting these criteria in the case of obesity in adults. It extends previous reviews by assessing the potential impact that uncertainties in the evidence base may have on the effectiveness a screening program. It also examines the feasibility of such a program. We conclude that following the recommendation to screen all adults for obesity is unlikely to improve outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)570-598
Number of pages29
JournalMedical Care Research and Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2006


  • Body mass index
  • Mass screening
  • Obesity
  • Overweight

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