Melissa A. Napolitano, Ph.D.

Melissa A. Napolitano, Ph.D.

Melissa Napolitano is Associate Professor in the Department of Prevention and Community Health. She also holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Exercise Science.

  • Phone: 202-994-9099
  • Fax: 202-994-3601
  • Email:
  • Office Address:
    950 New Hampshire Avenue
    316 - Floor 3
    Washington, DC 20052

Trained as a clinical health psychologist, Dr. Napolitano has expertise in adapting face-to-face treatment content for dissemination via different delivery channels. Her work specifically focuses on physical activity promotion, weight loss, and prevention of weight gain (e.g., among college students, following smoking cessation). She is particularly interested in the developmental life stage of emerging adulthood and contributing to the understanding of the formation of positive eating and exercise behaviors, as well as eating disorder risk behaviors. Prior to joining GWU in 2012, Dr. Napolitano served on the faculties of Brown Medical School and Temple University where she was also a research scientist at the Center for Obesity Research and Education. Dr. Napolitano's research, which includes a blend of face-to-face contacts and technological components, has high translation potential and is well-suited for developing multidisciplinary partnerships.


Bachelor of Arts (Psychology), Yale University, 1993 Doctor of Philosophy (Clinical Psychology), Duke University, 1999 Post-Doctoral Fellowship (Health Psychology/Behavioral Medicine), Brown University, 2000


PubH 6500 - Planning and Administration of Health Promotion Programs PubH 6550 - Maternal and Child Health I


Dr. Napolitano's research is focused on delivering evidence-based psychosocial interventions for physical activity and weight management through innovative delivery channels. The goal of her research is to evaluate and ultimately disseminate effective interventions for disease prevention at both the individual-level and the community-level. Dr. Napolitano's research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Dr. Napolitano's work has integrated smartphones, social media, and virtual reality as delivery tools. For example, she recently completed a project using Facebook and text messaging to deliver a weight loss intervention for college students, findings from which were published in Obesity. She will be extending and applying those new media technology interventions to different areas, such as for obesity prevention among adolescents transitioning between high school and college. Dr. Napolitano also utilizes her clinical experience treating overweight and obese patients to inform her research. This has led to line of research focused on understanding and addressing barriers to physical activity among obese women and among bariatric surgery patients, in particular. Finally, Dr. Napolitano seeks extend the application of key theoretical constructs via new media technologies; for instance, she has worked closely with partners to develop modules in which avatars model weight loss skills. Dr. Napolitano has more than 50 publications and book chapters and more than 90 conference presentations. Her work has received media coverage by CNN, USA Today, and Fox News.

Community Service

As a clinical health psychologist, Dr. Napolitano strongly supports the community agencies providing services to children, youth, and families. Since 2007, she has coordinated a holiday gift drive for a community agency specializing in providing behavioral health and child welfare services to youth. For her work on women's heart health and modifiable risk factors for heart disease, in 2006, she was named an Advocacy Ambassador for the State of Rhode Island by the American Heart Association. Dr. Napolitano also is a member of professional organizations focused on behavioral medicine and obesity, serves as a peer reviewer for several academic journals, and ad-hoc member of NIH grant review study sections.


  • Behavioral Health
  • Dissemination of Evidence-based Interventions
  • New Media Technologies
  • Obesity
  • Physical Activity Promotion
  • Weight Management