Year of Publication



Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Date Available


Degree Name

Master of Public Administration

Executive Summary

The Problem:

It is well known that our country is experiencing an obesity epidemic: 33.9% of all adults are obese (BMI>30) and 67% of adults are either overweight or obese (BMI>25). Obesity is a risk factor for several serious disease states such as, diabetes, stroke, hypertension, heart disease and some types of cancer. It also has a less well defined relationship with skin and soft tissue infections.

Although it is known that excessive weight increases the opportunity for harmful skin conditions, this relationship has not been as well studied. Some of the mechanisms that predispose obese people to infections are known, but much of the interrelationship remains uncertain especially its impact on health care cost and policy. This study contributes to the limited knowledge on the relationship between obesity and skin and soft tissue infections.

Research Strategy and Methods:

Using the H-CUP national data base for inpatient hospitalizations, this study analyzed the data from the hospitals in several states in the South for the number of skin and soft tissue infections for the years 2003, 2005, 2007. Using the co-morbidity code for obesity, the proportion of patients who are also obese in this population was quantified for each of the three years specified. Two linear regressions analyzed the impact of obesity on the cost of health care by using length of stay and total hospital charges as dependent variables.

Major Findings:

The proportion of patients hospitalized for skin and soft tissue infections that are also obese has increased from 47.56% in 2003 to 50.42% in 2007. Surprisingly, the co-morbidity of obesity has a negative predictive value for both hospital length of stay and total hospital charges.

Recommendations for Further Studies:

This study is an initial evaluation of the relationship between obesity and skin and soft tissue infections. More research is needed to determine whether obesity is a causal factor in skin and soft tissue infections and how this is affecting the cost and delivery of health care. Local, state and federal governments are beginning to create policies aimed at addressing the obesity epidemic, but the research to support such policies is in its infancy and requires more attention to be able to inform the policy process adequately.



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