Obesity Statistics for States, Counties & Cities

I needed to pull obesity statistics for states, counties, and cities in the United States for a recent custom data request. These vital statistics are collected and distributed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The tool you use to access this data is called SMART: BRFSS. That’s a long acronym for an even longer name, Selected Metropolitan/Micropolitan Area Risk Trends (SMART) Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

Here’s a step-by-step guide to accessing the obesity statistics for states, counties & cities using CDC SMART: BRFS City and County Data.


On the website for the CDC SMART: BRFSS City and County Data, you will need to provide information for three fields.

  • MMSA, or Major Metropolitan Statistical Area
  • Year
  • Category

In this example, we’re going to use Harris County, Texas. However, you can follow these same steps for any region.


Step 1: Locate The MMSA

In the case of Harris County, Texas, you’ll find it is not an option in the MMSA list. However, a quick look on a map will show that Houston is the major city in Harris County, and Houston is in the MMSA list. This MMSA covers more area than simply Houston and it is listed as TX-Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown.

Step 2: Select A Year

This data set is updated annually and is only available for years after 2002. Currently, there is data for every year from 2002 through 2011. For this example, we’re going to look at data from 2011.

Step 3: Select A Category

Once you select a category, simply click ‘Go’. This will present a list of categories and more information about the available data. For this example, we’re looking at the Overweight and Obesity (BMI) category. This provides a link to Weight classification by Body Mass Index (BMI).

Other available categories include:

  • No Category
  • Alcohol Consumption
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Cholesterol Awareness
  • Chronic Health Indicators
  • Colorectal Cancer Screening
  • Demographics
  • Diabetes
  • Disability
  • Exercise
  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Health Care Access/Coverage
  • Health Status
  • Hypertension Awareness
  • Immunization
  • Injury
  • Oral Health
  • Overweight and Obesity (BMI)
  • Physical Activity
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Tobacco Use
  • Women’s Health

Step 4: Review The Data


These steps have taken us to a page full of information about the TX-Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown MMSA. However, if you recall, we’re interested in data for Harris County. Toward the top of this page you’ll find a section titled ‘Included in this area’. This section lists Harris County as a link with an asterisk. This signifies that county-specific data is available for Harris County. Clicking that link will display the data for Harris County, Texas.

Overweight and Obesity (BMI)

The data for the Overweight and Obesity (BMI) category list the percentage of the population that is underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese based on their BMI. Additionally, a confidence interval and the number of respondents is provided. Unfortunately, this tool does not provide an easy way to import this data into a database or spreadsheet.


Here is a quick list of some of the highlights from the FAQ provided with the SMART: BRFS. For detailed answers and a longer list of questions, please visit the SMART: BRFS FAQ.

  • “Why isn’t my City/County represented on SMART BRFSS?”
    • An MMSA must have a minimum of 500 respondents for it to be included.
  • “Can one MMSA’s prevalence estimates be compared with those of another MMSA?”
    • In a very limited way due to the methodology used to collect this data and calculate prevalence estimates.
  • “Do you plan to do this project every year? Will more MMSAs and counties be available in the future?”
    • The data is gathered by individual states before it is collected into the SMART: BRFS. As long as the states make the original data available and use compatible methodologies, this data set is expected to continue to grow.


If you’d like help pulling lots of health indicator data, you should check out Cubit’s custom data pull option.

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