Obesity Research

We provide innovative, evidence-based research to assist efforts to curb obesity. Our health economists, behavioral psychologists, diet and nutrition specialists, and health communication experts conduct economic evaluation, intervention development and evaluation, and survey research to assess the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of interventions. Our obesity research helps decision makers as they implement policies and programs designed to reduce obesity and related illnesses and costs.


Economic and Intervention Evaluation

  • Burden-of-illness studies assessing the immediate, long-term, and lifelong economic costs of obesity, including Medicare and Medicaid costs
  • State-by-state estimates of medical costs attributable to obesity
  • Development of an obesity cost calculator that allows employers and insurers to estimate the costs of obesity for their organizations and create scenario modeling for evaluating the benefits of interventions to reduce obesity
  • Evaluation of CDC programs: the Nutrition and Physical Activity program, which provides state funding for community, organization, and family interventions to promote healthy eating and physical activity; and the "5 A Day" campaign stressing fruit and vegetable consumption in a healthy diet
  • Economic and effectiveness evaluation of obesity interventions: social marketing strategies, partnerships, media communication, clinical counseling, environmental changes facilitating physical activity, policy changes, improved nutrition strategies, economic incentives, and bariatric surgery
  • Evaluation of interventions at the community level, such as Chicago's "5-4-3-2-1 Go!" social marketing campaign of science-based messages about nutrition and physical activity, to determine its effects on communities and individuals as well as its potential as a national model
  • Evaluation of the Communities Putting Prevention to Work program, which funded 44 communities a total of $373 million to address obesity and tobacco use by helping to increase physical activity in schools, improve safe options for active transportation in the community, and provide access to nutritious foods

Formative Research and Intervention Implementation

  • Design, implementation, and evaluation of surveys to capture public opinion regarding the causes of and perceived solutions to childhood obesity
  • Development of a Web-based data collection system to help programs capture data
  • Culturally specific formative research, including focus groups and interviews to determine influences on children's television viewing and computer use, and development of interventions to reduce children's sedentary activities
  • Development of a science-based weight management program for family members of military personnel

Selected Clients

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • U.S. Department of Defense
  • National Institutes of Health
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • Ethicon Endo-Surgery
  • Merck & Co.
  • Novartis
  • Pfizer
  • Sanofi-Aventis
RTI International, Vree Health Sign Licensing Deal on Obesity Cost Calculator

RTI International has signed a license and development agreement with Vree Health LLC, a healthcare services and technol... Read more »


James C. Hersey
Senior Research Psychologist
Jean Wiecha
Public Health Nutritionist
Jennifer C. Duke
Senior Public Health Analyst
Pamela A. Williams
Senior Research Scientist
Chen Zhen
Research Economist, Food and Nutrition Policy Research