Military Readiness Implications of the United States Obesity Epidemic: A Systematic Review with Meta-Synthesis

Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Healthcare Administration (DHA)

Committee Chair

David Meckstroth

Committee Member

David Mccurry

Committee Member

Gail Frankle


Military readiness relies upon the health of servicemembers and the ability to perform the duties of their position. Rates of overweight or obese body compositions have been found to be increasing in prevalence within the United States armed forces (Yang et al., 2021). To identify further gaps in knowledge, consolidate and synthesize information, and inform future study, a systematic review with meta-synthesis was performed under the lens of a socio-ecological framework. When searching EBSCO, PubMed, and Google Scholar, 194 results were analyzed within the PRISMA guide. Twenty articles met inclusion after review. After NVivo and manual theme identification from those marked for inclusion, information was synthesized based on the frequencies found in the collective group of articles. The results indicated 95% of the articles found rising rates of obesity in the United States armed forces were problematic for military readiness. The need to intervene was discussed in 85% of the articles found, while only 65% discussed the need to curve chronic disease related to obesity. As the Department of Defense has 1.33 million active duty and approximately 1 million more in a reserve status, policy changes are likely to have a sweeping impact (DOD Demographics, 2020). Further study is recommended to inform future policy decisions. These include researching efficacy of current standards for retention or recruitment, more analysis of reserve and guard forces, civilianizing some non-deploying active duty positions, and trending a greater number of years’ worth of data to assess temporal relationships.