Melissa Blythe Harrell, PhD

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Associate Professor, Epidemiology, Human Genetics & Environmental Sciences

Melissa Harrell, PhD, MPH is a behavioral epidemiologist with 15 years of experience in the design, implementation, and analysis of large-scale intervention trials designed to promote child and adolescent health. Dr. Harrell completed her undergraduate studies at the College of William & Mary (1991) in Virginia and received her MPH (Community Health Education, 1999) and Ph.D. (Behavioral Epidemiology, 2002) from the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota. Since 2006, she has served on the faculty with the UT School of Public Health, in Austin, with the Center for Healthy Living. She is an Associate Professor in Epidemiology.

Dr. Harrell has had a long standing interest in promoting youth health, particularly that of adolescents. She has been integrally involved in leading roles in a number of large-scale intervention trials for young people. These trials have addressed multiple issues relevant to adolescent health (e.g., tobacco, alcohol, HIV/AIDS, nutrition, and physical activity) and have been conducted in rural and urban settings in the US and in international settings like India and Uruguay. These trials have involved thousands of young people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds and have tested the effectiveness of an array of intervention strategies, from school-based curriculum to youth-led activism. Dr. Harrell was a Senior Editor of the 2012 US Surgeon General’s Report on Tobacco Use, which comprehensively reviews the science behind reducing tobacco use among youth globally. She currently serves as the Associate Director of the Texas Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science and leads one of its three research studies too.

In 2005, Dr. Harrell was named “Outstanding Young Prevention Scientist” by the Society for Prevention Research in the United States, and in 2009, she was awarded “Outstanding Young Investigator” for the UT Health Science Center. She has over 70 peer-reviewed publications.

She currently serves as the Associate Director of the Texas Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science and leads one of its three research studies too. This research study focuses on tobacco use behaviors and the impact of tobacco marketing on them among middle school and high school youth in four large metropolitan areas of Texas (Houston, San Antonio, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Austin).  In 2016, Dr. Harrell also served as a Senior Associate Editor for the Surgeon General’s Report on E-cigarette Use among Young People, and led the production of the chapter on the epidemiology of e-cigarette use.

Additional Research Projects - Peers Against Tobacco: The goal of this study is to create a computer-based tobacco prevention and cessation intervention for college students in Texas.  This is one component of a multiple component project which will start with 16 colleges statewide and grow to cover many more in the state.

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Current Projects

Activate Ya

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The purpose of this study is to develop and test the efficacy of a multiple-component intervention to prevent tobacco use and promote physical activity for 7th-8th graders in Uruguay.

Texas Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science on Youth & Young Adults

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The overall goal of the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (TCORS) on Youth and Young Adults is to develop an integrated program of research and training to provide scientific evidence, and a career path for regulatory scientists, to support U.S. tobacco regulation.

Recent Publications

Exposure and engagement with tobacco and e-cigarette related social media among Texas adolescents

(Hébert ET, Case KR, Kelder SH, Delk J, Perry CL, Harrell MB; J Adolesc Health; 2017)

Feasibility and reliability of a mobile tool to evaluate exposure to tobacco product marketing and messages using ecological momentary assessment

(Hébert ET, Vandewater EA, Businelle MS, Harrell MB, Kelder SH, Perry CL; Addict Behav; 2017)

Subjective experiences at first use of cigarette, e-cigarettes, hookah, and cigar products among Texas adolescents

(Mantey DS, Harrell MB, Case K, Crook B, Kelder SH, Perry CL; Drug Alcohol Depend; 2017)

Association between parent and child weight status among private school children in Delhi, India

(Greene-Cramer B, Harrell MB, Hoelscher DM, Sharma S, Ranjit N, Gupta V, Nazar G, Arora M; Global Health Promotion; 2016)

Social Norms, Perceptions and Dual/Poly Tobacco Use among Texas Youth

(Cooper M, Creamer MR, Ly C, Crook B, Harrell MB, Perry CL; Am J Health Behav; 2016)

Recent News

UTSPH faculty and students take part in Surgeon General’s 2012 Tobacco Report

The Office of the Surgeon General will release the 2012 Report on Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults. Faculty at The University of Texas School of Public Health (UTSPH) took a lead role in developing the report. Dr. Cheryl Perry, professor and regional dean of the Austin Regional Campus, was Senior Scientific Editor and lead author on the report. Dr. Melissa Stigler, assistant professor at UTSPH , was Senior Associate Editor and UTSPH doctoral students MeLisa Creamer and Emily Neusel were listed as contributors on the report.