Erie Vital Signs

Health Behaviors and Disease Prevention: Overweight or Obese

Recent Performance

This trend is negative or needs improvement.

Just over two-thirds of Erie County residents are overweight or obese according to the most recent data available from the Erie County Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey. In this, Erie residents have a higher rate than both Pennsylvania and the United States. Having 68 percent of residents overweight or obese is too high for good health, any way you look at it.

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to both men and women. It is measured by gathering height and weight data, and calculating a ratio. One is considered underweight if they have a BMI of less than 18.5; normal weight is a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9; overweight is a BMI between 25 and 29.9; and obese is a BMI 30 or greater. As an example, someone who is 5’8” is considered overweight if they weigh 164 pounds or more. And they are considered obese if they weigh 197 pounds or more.

Obesity is an epidemic in our country. The cause for this exponential increase in weight gain across the country in the past decade is a combination of sedentary lifestyles coupled with unhealthy eating habits. There is a very simple solution to this problem: eat less and move more. And yet, the problem, along with waistlines, continues to grow.

Those most likely to be overweight or obese include Erie County residents with less than a high school diploma, residents who earn less than $25,000 a year, and males.

*2013 indicates data for the period 2011-13.

Note: Much of the data for the Health Indicators come from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Survey. Each metro area decides whether or not to participate each year, so these indicators often do not have data for every year for every metro area. As a result, the graphs show markers (dots, diamonds, etc.) for the individual years rather than lines. If there are data for consecutive years, the markers will be joined with a line on the graphs.

The Basics

This indicator reports the percentage of Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Survey respondents who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25.0 or higher. (Overweight = BMI of 25.0 to 29.9; Obese = BMI of 30 or higher.) Respondents were asked their weight and height, and the BMI was calculated from that information.

Why It's Important

According to the Centers for Disease Control, overweight and obese individuals are at increased risk for many diseases and health conditions, including the following:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Dyslipidemia (for example, high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides)
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Liver disease
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Some cancers

The Details

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the formula for BMI IS: BMI = weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 × 703. The CDC says that BMI is a fairly reliable indicator of body fatness for most people. BMI does not measure body fat directly, but research has shown that BMI correlates to direct measures of body fat. For adults 20 years old and older, BMI is interpreted using standard weight status categories that are the same for all ages and for both men and women. (Standards for children and teens are different.)

BMIWeight Status
Below 18.5Underweight
18.5 – 24.9Normal
25.0 – 29.9Overweight
30.0 +Obese

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Survey is a telephone based health survey of adults age 18 and above. Both landline and cell phone users are included. Initiated in 1984 by the CDC, it is now administered nationally, statewide, regionally, and locally. The survey focuses on health care access, health conditions, risk behaviors, and preventive health practices. Standardized questions allow comparison among various population groups. For 2013, Erie County used 3-Year Sum County Level data, for years 2011-2013, which was provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Similar 3-Year Sum data for Pennsylvania was used for comparison.

The Nitty-Gritty Details


This EVS indicator has no subcategories. The raw data for Erie County do provide data for subcategories based on sex, age, education, income, and race.

Peer Areas

The BRFSS data are available for Erie, the state of Pennsylvania, and the United States. Data is also available for the following thirteen of the standard peer selected metropolitan/micropolitan statistical areas (MMSAs): Akron OH, Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton PA-NJ, Boulder CO, Cedar Rapids IA, Flint MI, Gainesville FL, Green Bay WI, Kalamazoo-Portage MI, Lansing-East Lansing MI, Laredo TX, Peoria IL, Roanoke VA, and Spartanburg SC.


Erie County completes a BRFSS every four to five years. The survey is administered every year at the state and national level.


Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey, administered by the Erie County Department of Health following guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pennsylvania Department of Health 3-Year Sum County Level data. Links to the data are given above under “All the Nitty-Gritty Details”.

Other Related Data

  • Erie County Department of Health, Community Health Profiles Erie County Department of Health
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Overweight and Obesity Home Page "Obesity and Overweight: Topics - DNPAO - CDC
    ": -Obesity and Overweight, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC Overweight and Obese
  • Healthy weight, overweight, and obesity among adults aged 20 and over, by selected characteristics: United States, selected years1988–1994 through 2009–2012. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Overweight and Obesity by Selected Characteristics
    ": Overweight and Obesity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC Overweight and Obesity Definition
  • Percent of Adults Who are Overweight or Obese, Kaiser Family Foundation, Overweight and Obesity, by State
  • Overweight and Obesity Statistics, National Institute of Health, NIH Overweight and Obesity Statistics
  • Obesity and Overweight Globally, World Health Organization, WHO Global Overweight and Obesity Statistics

Additional Studies and Research

  • Surveillance for Certain Health Behaviors Among States and Selected Local Areas — Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, United States, 2011, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011 Surveillance
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health, United States, Products - Health United States - Homepage

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