Joseph Donnelly, Ed.D.

Joseph E. Donnelly, Ed.D.

Joseph Donnelly

Joseph Donnelly is a nationally recognized researcher in weight loss and maintenance. Since 2000 he has received $10 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health for his research to help combat obesity in children and adults, including those with disabilities. His current projects involve more than 15,000 area children in strategies to fight obesity involving physical activity and the environment, diet, pharmaceuticals and public policy. Projects include:

A Dyadic Approach for a Remote Physical Activity Intervention in Adults with Alzheimer's Disease and their
Major Goals: This project tests the effectiveness of two intervention delivery strategies for increasing physical
activity, real-time group video conferencing vs. enhanced usual care, in 100 community dwelling adults with
mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease and their caregiver over 18 mos.
The Promotion of Physical Activity for the Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease in Adults with Down Syndrome
Major Goals: We propose a 12 mo. early stage clinical trial in 80 non-demented adults with DS. Participants will be randomized to attend 30 min remotely delivered group MVPA sessions at low (1 session/wk.,RL) or high frequency (3 sessions/wk., RH), or usual care control (UC, step counter, access to resources for increasing MVPA, monthly remote (FacetimeTM) individual support/education). Participants in both the RL and RH groups will also receive one 20-min remotely delivered (FacetimeTM) individual support/education session/wk. Content for both the RL and RH arms will be identical with the exception of group session frequency (1 vs. 3/wk.).
Weight Management for Adults with Mobility Related Disabilities
Major Goals: This project tests remote delivery versus traditional face-to-face weight management in adults with mobility related disabilities.
Individual and family-based approaches to increase physical activity in adolescents with IDD
Major Goals: Promotion of physical activity in adolescents with IDD.
Teacher versus remotely delivered classroom physical activity breaks
Major Goals: This project will compare a teacher led (PAAC-T) versus a series of pre-recorded classroom physical activity program (PAAC-R) in elementary school children.
Remote Delivery of Weight Management in Adults with IDD
Major Goals: To determine whether a weight loss intervention delivered remotely is non-inferior to an intervention delivered face to face during weight loss (0-6 months) and maintenance (6-18 months).
Weight management in rural health clinics
Major Goals: To compare weight at 6 mos. between GP, IP, and EUC. We expect significantly greater weight loss in GP and IP vs. EUC, and greater weight loss in GP vs. IP.
Weight Management for Adolescents with IDD
Major Goals: To compare weight loss from 0-6months between groups randomized to Face-to-Face (FTF)/Conventional Diet (CD) vs. Technology delivered (TECH)/CD and TECH/CD vs. TECH enhanced Stop Light Diet (eSLD).  This design will provide comparisons of both delivery systems (FTF/CD vs. TECH/CD) and diets (TECH/CD vs TECH/eSLD).

Director, Center for Physical Activity and Weight Management
University of Kansas Medical Center

Ed.D., Exercise Physiology, West Virginia University
M.S., Exercise Physiology, Eastern Illinois University
B.S., Davis and Elkins College

Contact Information


Research Interests

  • Energy balance
  • Child nutrition and fitness
  • Obesity and chronic disease risk
  • Effect of exercise on weight loss and maintenance
  • Physical activity, brain function and academic achievement in children
  • Exercise and Alzheimer's disease in the elderly
  • Alternative delivery strategies for prevention and treatment of obesity
  • Resistance training, energy balance and weight management



American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), Exercise Test Technologist; American Heart Association, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiac Care