Melissa Blythe Harrell, PhD

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Professor, Epidemiology, Human Genetics & Environmental Sciences

Dr. Melissa Blythe Harrell is a Professor at the Center who resides at the Austin Campus, with other faculty at the UT Health School of Public Health. Her research interests focus on tobacco use among youth and young adults. A behavioral epidemiologist by training, Dr. Harrell has served as a Senior Writer and Editor of 3 Surgeon General’s Reports and 1 Institute of Medicine Report on this topic, and she has over 110 peer-reviewed publications.  She has been a leading investigator on 11 federally funded grants from the NIH and CDC to date, totaling more than $30 million in direct costs.  Dr. Harrell completed her undergraduate studies at the College of William & Mary (BS, Biology, 1991) and received her MPH (1999) and PhD (2002) from the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota.  Since 2006, she has served on the faculty of UT Health, with appointments in the Departments of Epidemiology, Human Genetics, and Environmental Sciences and the Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences. Dr. Harrell’s extensive research portfolio includes behavioral surveillance and intervention studies in Texas and other international settings (e.g., Uruguay, India, Africa). Over half of her publications include students or trainees as first authors, underscoring a strong commitment to mentoring and teaching the next generation of public health professionals.

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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

Youth or young adults: Which group is at highest risk for tobacco use onset?

(Perry CL, PĂ©rez A, Bluestein M, Garza N, Obinwa U, Jackson C, Clendennen SL, Loukas A, Harrell MB; J Adolesc Health ;2018)

Exploring physical activity engagement in secondary school students in Montevideo, Uruguay: A qualitative study

(Parobii, I, Springer, AE, Harrell, MB, Gomensoro, LM, Fresco, MT, Alers, N, Perry, CL, & Estol, D; Int J Child Adolesc health; 2018)

Understanding susceptibility to e-cigarettes: A comprehensive model of risk factors that influence the transition from non-susceptible to susceptible among e- cigarette naive adolescents

(Carey FR, Rogers SM, Cohn EA, Harrell MB, Wilkinson AV, Perry CL; Addict Behav. ;2018)

E- cigarette specific symptoms of nicotine dependence among Texas adolescents

(Case, K, Mantey, D, Creamer, M, Harrell, MB, Kelder, S, & Perry, CL; Addictive Behaviors; 2018)

Measurement and predictive value of susceptibility to cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, and hookah among Texas adolescents

(Carey FR, Wilkinson AV, Harrell MB, Cohn EA, Perry CL; Addict Behav Rep. ;2018)

Recent News

Restricting flavored tobacco could curb youth use

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Policies that restrict flavored tobacco access can reduce teen use in as little as six months, a study in Massachusetts suggests. Researchers compared two towns 30 miles apart and found that after one community passed a restrictive policy in 2016, flavored tobacco availability and use dropped the next year.

UTHealth researchers find e-cigarette flavors linked to use in youth and young adults

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Flavored e-cigarettes and e-cigarette marketing could be increasing e-cigarette use among youth and young adults, according to researchers from the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health in Austin.