David E. Arterburn, MD, MPH

“It's critical that we find cost-effective ways to reduce obesity. My research examines the long-term effects of behavioral, pharmaceutical, and surgical treatments and promotes shared decision-making between patients and their providers.” 

David Arterburn, MD, MPH

Group Health Research Institute Senior Investigator
Group Health Physician, Internal Medicine

Areas of focus:


David Arterburn's main research focus is on finding safe, effective, and innovative ways to treat obesity. He is a general internist and health services researcher with a passionate commitment to helping individuals and families make treatment decisions that align with their values while sustaining their health over the long haul.

A national leader in obesity research, Dr. Arterburn joined Group Health Research Institute (GHRI) in 2006 to forge a new program of research spanning behavioral, pharmaceutical, and bariatric surgical care. Before joining GHRI, he published important findings on the epidemic nature and rising cost of obesity in the United States. Because tackling the obesity crisis requires a menu of treatment options, Dr. Arterburn's current research covers a broad range, including policy-level interventions for health plans, pharmaco-epidemiology, pharmacogenetics, the long-term outcomes of bariatric surgery, and shared decision making related to elective surgery. With the support of the Informed Medical Decisions Foundation, for which he serves as a medical editor, he has collaborated with Group Health's specialty leadership to implement and evaluate a new initiative to promote shared decision making around elective surgical care with video-based patient decision aids. The approach shows great promise for simultaneously improving the quality and lowering the costs of health care.

Dr. Arterburn's prior research in obesity pharmacotherapy has had a significant impact on clinical practice guidelines issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the American College of Physicians. Dr. Arterburn is past chair of the Adult Obesity Measurement Advisory Panel sponsored by the National Committee on Quality Assurance, founding chair of the Obesity Society's Health Services Research Section, and past chair of Health Care Systems Research Network (HCSRN)'s Obesity Special Interest Group. He is also an affiliate associate professor in the University of Washington (UW) Department of Medicine. Dr. Arterburn is excited to continue his multidisciplinary work with these and other colleagues from the HCSRN, the UW, and the VA.

Areas of research focus

  • Obesity

    Bariatric surgery; health services research; economics and risk adjustment; pharmaceutical outcomes research

  • Health Services & Economics

    Obesity prevention and control

  • Medication Use & Patient Safety

    Pharmaco-epidemiology, pharmacogenetics, pharmaceutical outcomes research

  • Patient/Provider Interaction

    Shared decision making

Recent publications

Haneuse S, Bogart A, Jazic I, Westbrook EO, Boudreau D, Theis MK, Simon GE, Arterburn D. Learning about missing data mechanisms in electronic health records-based research: a survey-based approach. Epidemiology. 2015 Oct 19. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Jones SM, Rosenberg D, Ludman E, Arterburn D. Medical comorbidity and psychotropic medication fills in older adults with breast or prostate cancer. Support Care Cancer. 2015 Feb 27 [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Arterburn D, Wood GC, Theis MK, Westbrook EO, Anau J, Rukstalis M, Boscarino JA, Daar Z, Gerhard GS. Antipsychotic medications and extreme weight gain in two health systems. Obes Res Clin Pract. 2015 Sep 8. pii: S1871-403X(15)00126-X. doi: 10.1016/j.orcp.2015.08.012. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Lewis KH, Zhang F, Arterburn DE, Ross-Degnan D, Gillman MW, Wharam JF. Comparing medical costs and use after laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding and Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. JAMA Surg. 2015 Aug;150(8):787-94. doi: 10.1001/jamasurg.2015.1081. PubMed

Schauer DP, Arterburn DE, Livingston EH, Coleman KJ, Sidney S, Fisher D, O’Connor P, Fischer D, Eckman MH. Impact of bariatric surgery on life expectancy in severely obese patients with diabetes: a decision analysis. Ann Surg. 2015 May;261(5):914-9. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000000907.


latest news

One antidepressant shown to control weight during 2-year study

Research at Group Health points to bupropion (Wellbutrin) as first choice for overweight and obese patients with depression.

Read it in News and Events.

healthy findings blog

Weight controlled better with bupropion (Wellbutrin) than with other antidepressants

Dr. David Arterburn describes his research on Group Health patients’ weight after 2 years on various antidepressants.

Read it in Healthy Findings.

funding news

PCORI approves Group Health for $4.5 million obesity study

Study leader Dr. David Arterburn will use PCORnet, new national clinical research network, to speed results.

Read it in News and Events.

GHRI In the Media

Surgery for obesity is linked to longer survival

Weight-loss surgery cuts risk of death among morbidly obese

Seattle Times, Jan 6, 2015