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Keywords:

  • survey;
  • exercise;
  • professional advice;
  • veterans;
  • body weight changes

Abstract

Objective: To examine obesity prevalence and weight control practices among veterans who use Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities (VA users).

Research Methods and Procedures: Data from the 2000 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a telephone survey of 184, 450 adults, were analyzed. Outcome measures included BMI, weight control practices (the intent to manage weight, and diet and physical activity patterns), and receipt of professional weight control advice.

Results: Of VA users, 44% were overweight and 25% were obese. After controlling for demographic factors, VA users were somewhat less likely to be overweight (odds ratio, 0.86; 95% confidence interval, 0.74 to 1.00) but equally likely to be obese (odds ratio, 1.08; 95% confidence interval, 0.92 to 1.27), compared with non-VA users. Among obese VA users, 75% reported trying to lose weight, and another 17% reported trying to maintain weight. Of these, only 40% decreased both calorie and fat intake. Only 27% of obese VA users who reported increasing exercise to lose weight followed recommendations for regular and sustained physical activity. Of obese VA users, 59% were inactive or irregularly active. Only 51% of obese VA users received professional advice to lose weight. Obese VA users were more likely than obese non-VA users to report trying to lose weight, modifying diet to lose weight by decreasing both calories and fat intake, and receiving professional weight control advice.

Discussion: Interventions for weight management programs in VA facilities need to take into account the high prevalence of overweight/obesity among VA users and should emphasize effective weight control practices.