NIH Bariatric Research Study

Our goal is to learn more about the motivations and characteristics linked to an individual’s decision to pursue or not pursue bariatric surgery as treatment for obesity.


What is the NIH Bariatric Research Study?

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Bariatric Research Study is an investigation into the intrapersonal, interpersonal and environmental factors associated with individuals’ (1) completion of bariatric surgery, (2) achievement of post-surgery weight loss, and (3) resolution of co-existing diseases.

Researchers particularly hope to identify and understand influences associated with the choice to have or not have bariatric surgery. A variety of factors will be examined, including race, ethnicity, family and community relationships, socio-economic factors, and more.

Lifestyle - Couple in kitchen cooking

Why is this important?

Obesity, associated with increased risk of disease and death, is considered a significant public health problem in the United States as rates continue to rise steadily.

Bariatric surgery is a safe and effective treatment for those battling obesity, as well as for those battling it with co-existing conditions as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It has been shown that persons with obesity who undergo the surgery are more likely to live longer and enjoy a higher quality of life in comparison to those who opt out of having the surgery. For this reason, this procedure is becoming increasingly common, especially in cases where attempts to follow conventional treatment methods (such as increasing physical exercise and decreasing food intake) have failed.

However – though the benefits of bariatric surgery are well-known, only 50% of patients who are referred or eligible actually follow through with their decision to undergo the operation. Through the NIH Bariatric Research Study, we hope to better understand why individuals decide against or in favor of having bariatric surgery. And for those who decide to follow through with surgery, we seek to identify characteristics that affect post-surgery outcomes of continued healthy weight-loss and illness resolution. Understanding such motivations and characteristics can help us in developing effective tools and strategies that encourage bariatric surgery completion – and decrease obesity and obesity-related disease/death in the United States.


What will the process look like if I decide to participate?

If you are eligible for the NIH Bariatric Research Study, a team member will contact you, answer any questions you may have, and invite you to take part in the study.

You will be asked to complete up to four participant-sessions, containing surveys and brief interviews. Surveys take about 2 hours to complete per session and can be done entirely online at your convenience. They will ask about your diet, exercise regimen, family and health-care provider relationships, community systems, your attitudes and beliefs on bariatric surgery, and more. Interviews take about 15 minutes per session, can be done either by phone, online, or in-person, based on your choice. If during the course of this study, you have bariatric surgery, you may be asked to provide clinical information about your procedure and the results of your labs.

You may be eligible to receive compensation for participating in this study. Please ask a team member for more information.

Bariatric Research Study Figure

Who is eligible to participate?

The NIH Bariatric Research Study seeks to enroll those who are currently considering and/or have considered having bariatric surgery, even if they ultimately decide against having the surgery. Particularly, those who have been medically referred for bariatric surgery, but are no longer interested in pursuing surgery, may also be eligible for the study.

The following provides additional requirements for participation. For successful enrollment, participants must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be medically eligible for bariatric surgery (as determined by a medical doctor)
  • Understand English or Spanish
  • Have bariatric surgery by December 31, 2022

How do I sign up to participate?

To begin, complete this short eligibility screener.


Completion of this online form allows the NIH Bariatric Research Study team to determine your eligibility. If you meet eligibility requirements, one of our team members will contact you via phone or email with an invitation to take part in the study.

Participant - Doing survey on computer

Once you accept our invitation to participate, you will be asked to complete a 15-minute interview and a series of surveys as part of your first participant-session for the study (see What to Expect for more details). The total time required to complete the first participant-session is approximately 2–2.5 hours.

You may be eligible to receive compensation for your time. Please ask a team member for more information.

Who is directing this study?

The NIH Bariatric Research Study is supervised by team members from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health and the University of Texas Southwestern (UTSW) Medical Center.

Study investigators include:

Dr. Sarah E. Messiah
Dr. Benjamin Schneider
Dr. Carrie McAdams

Clinic staff - Doctor smiling

How do I contact the NIH Bariatric Research Study team if I have questions?

You can contact us via email at [email protected] or by phone at 972-546-2953.

You can also reach out to us via our pages on Facebook and Instagram. Here you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions, as well as access to educational videos with regard to bariatric surgery and recommendations post-surgery.

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This project has been approved by the UTHealth Committee for Protection of Human Subjects, IRB# HSC-SPH-18-0850.