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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Need for weight management in Switzerland: findings from National Blood Pressure Week 2009

Thomas Volken*, René Schaffert and Peter Rüesch

Author Affiliations

Department of Health Professions, Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Winterthur, Switzerland

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:473  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-473

Published: 15 June 2011



The Swiss Health Survey (SHS) provides the only source of data for monitoring overweight and obesity in the general population in Switzerland. However, this survey reports body mass index (BMI) based on self-reported height and weight, and is therefore subject to measurement errors. Moreover, it is not possible to differentiate between overall and abdominal overweight. In this study, we aimed to gain a better understanding of the need for weight management in the general population of Switzerland by exploring and comparing prevalence rates of BMI and waist circumference (WC) based on physical measurements by trained observers, based on data from the 2009 National Blood Pressure Week (NBPW).


Sample selection was based on a one-stage cluster design. A total of 385 pharmacies representing 3,600 subjects were randomly selected from pharmacies participating in NBPW. BMI measures based on physical weight and height (NBPW) were compared with self-reported BMI measures from the SHS. BMI and WC measurements from NBPW were then used to produce population estimates of overweight and obesity.


BMI-based overall prevalence of overweight and obesity was 43.6%, which was 4.7% higher than the value based on the respective SHS data. Overweight and obesity were more common in men (54.3%) than in women (33.5%). However, the overall prevalence of increased WC in the general population was estimated to be 64.4%, with more women (68.4%) than men (60.1%) exhibiting a WC above the threshold. The prevalence of subjects requiring weight management in the Swiss population remained high, even after adjusting WC for false positive and negative cases.


Firstly, it may be more appropriate for health promotion programs to address the wider group identified by WC, which includes subjects who need to reduce their weight, or gain no further weight. Secondly, the gender differences are reversed depending on the use of WC or BMI to identify subjects suitable for health promotion programs; more women than men are identified by WC, and more men than women using BMI. These differences should be accounted for in gender-specific health promotion programs.