Adult obesity prevalence in primary care users: An exploration using Canadian Primary Care Sentinel Surveillance Network (CPCSSN) data

Alanna V. Rigobon, Richard Birtwhistle, Shahriar Khan, David Barber, Suzanne Biro, Rachael Morkem, Ian Janssen, Tyler Williamson


OBJECTIVES: This research examines the feasibility of using electronic medical records within the Canadian Primary Care Sentinel Surveillance Network (CPCSSN) for obesity surveillance in Canada by assessing obesity trends over time and comparing BMI distribution estimates from CPCSSN to those obtained from nationally representative surveys.

METHODS: Data from 2003–2012 on patients 18 years and older (n = 216,075) were extracted from the CPCSSN database. Patient information included demographics (age and sex) and anthropometric measures (height, weight, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio). Standard descriptive statistics were used to characterize the sample, including, as appropriate, means, proportions and medians. The BMI distribution of the CPCSSN population was compared to estimates from the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) and the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) for the years: 2004, 2007–2009 and 2009–2011.

RESULTS: The estimated prevalence of obesity increased from 17.9% in 2003 to 30.8% in 2012. Obesity class I, II and III prevalence estimates from CPCSSN in 2009–2011 (18.0%, 95% CI: 17.8–18; 7.4%, 95% CI: 7.3–7.6; 4.2%, 95% CI: 4.1–4.3 respectively) were greater than those from the most recent (2009– 2011) cycle of the CHMS (16.2%, 95% CI: 14–18.7; 6.3%, 95% CI: 4.6–8.5; 3.7%, 95% CI: 2.8–4.8 respectively), however these differences were not statistically significant.

CONCLUSION: The data from CPCSSN present a unique opportunity for longitudinal obesity surveillance among primary care users in Canada, and offer prevalence estimates similar to those obtained from nationally representative survey data.


BMI – body mass index; CPCSSN – Canadian Primary Care Sentinel Surveillance Network; EMR – Electronic Medical Record; obesity

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