Michele Polacsek

I am a trained behavioral scientist with experience in public health practice and research in a variety of settings. I began my work in public health in the area of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. My experience in HIV prevention provided me with skills in survey design and development, psychometrics, the analysis of data on social determinants of health. During my doctoral training I gained valuable skills running a large random digit dialing telephone survey. By 1994, I was working on chronic disease prevention as a research faculty member at the University of New Mexico where I gained experience doing community based participatory research with communities and co-developed a community based participatory evaluation workbook for community initiatives. After moving to Maine, I worked extensively with the Maine Centers for Disease Control (MCDC) to evaluate state public health programs and build evaluation capacity. Over the past 15 years, my work has focused on the translation of evidence to practice for childhood obesity prevention. During this time I coordinated the evaluation for the Maine Youth Overweight Collaborative where I developed tools (e.g. parent, provider and staff surveys, as well as chart review forms and telephone interview protocols) to measure outcomes. More recently I led several studies examining food and beverage marketing to youth in Maine schools. I also led an investigation of the cost and effectiveness of two statewide obesity prevention policies for Maine, translating models developed at the Harvard School of Public Health for National studies to Maine. I am currently leading a study to examine the effectiveness of supermarket economic incentives on the purchase of fruit and vegetables among low-income populations. I have developed and taught courses at the University of New England in Public Health since 2006.


Childhood Obesity<br />Chronic Disease Prevention<br /><br />Social and Behavioral Health


Current Research

School based food and beverage marketing to youth

Grocery store healthy food incentives


Selected Publications

1. Gortmaker SL, Polacsek M, Letourneau L, Rogers VW, Holmberg R, Lombard KA, Fanburg J, Ware J, Orr J. Evaluation of a primary care intervention on body mass index: the maine youth overweight collaborative. Child Obes. 2015 Apr;11(2):187-93. 

2. Polacsek, M., Orr, J., O'Brien, L. M., Rogers, V. W., Fanburg, J., & Gortmaker, S.L. Sustainability of Key Maine Youth Overweight Collaborative Improvements: A Follow-Up Study. Childhood Obesity August 2014. 10(4):1-8.

3. Polacsek, M., Obrien, L., Whatley-Blum, J., O’Rourke, K., Donahue, S. Examining a Statewide Law Banning Junk Food and Beverage Marketing in Maine Schools. Public Health Reports, March-April 2012. 127:216-223.

4. Harris, D.E. PhD, Whatley-Blum, J. PhD, Brampton, M. PhD, O'Brien, L.M. PhD, Beaudoin, C.M. PhD, Polacsek, M. PhD MHS, O'Rourke, K.A. MPH. Food Stores Near Schools Do Not Predict the Weight Status of Maine High School Students. JNEB 2011; 43(4) 274-278.

5. Whatley Blum JE, Beaudoin CM, O’Brien LM, Polacsek M, Harris DE, O’Rourke KA. Impact of Maine’s statewide nutrition policy on high school food environments. Prev Chronic Dis 2011;8(1).  http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2011/jan/09_0241.htm.

6. O’Brien LM, Polacsek M, MacDonald P, Ellis J, Berry S, and Martin M, Impact of a School Health Coordinator Intervention on Health-Related School Policies and Student Behavior. Journal of School Health  2010, Volume 80, Issue 4 , Pages 176 – 185.

7. Polacsek M. PHD MHS, Orr J. CHES, Letourneau L. MD MPH, Rogers V. MD, Holmberg R. MD MPH, O’Rourke K. MPH, Hannon C. MSW, Lombard K.A. MD, Gortmaker S.L. PHD, Impact of a Primary Care Intervention on Physician Practice and Patient and Family Behavior: Keep ME Healthy: The Maine Youth Overweight Collaborative. Pediatrics, 2009;123: S258-S266.

8. Martin SL, Maines D, Martin MW, MacDonald PB, Polacsek M, Wigand D, et al. Healthy Maine Partnerships: policy and environmental changes. Prev Chronic Dis 2009;6(2). http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2009/apr/08_0123.htm.

9. Polacsek M, O’Brien LM, Lagasse W, Hammar N. Move & Improve: a worksite wellness program in Maine. Prev Chronic Dis. 2006 Jul;3(3):A101

10. Wallerstein, N., Polacsek, M., and Maltrud, K., "Participatory Evaluation Model for Coalitions: The Development of Systems Indicators”,  Health Promot Pract, July 2002, 3(3):361-373.

11. Polacsek, M., and Rogers, E., and Woodall G, Delaney, H., Wheeler, D., Rao, N., “MADD Victim Impact Panels and Stages of Change in Drunk-Driving Prevention”, Journal of Studies on Alcohol :  May 2001:344-350.

12. M. Polacsek, D.D. Celentano, P. O'Campo, and J. Santelli, "Correlates of Condom Use Stage of Change: Implications for Intervention", AIDS Educ Prev: 1999, 11(1):38-52.

13. J. Santelli, A.C. Kouzis, D.R. Hoover, M. Polacsek, L.G. Burwell, D.D. Celentano, "Stage of Behavior Change For Condom Use: The Influence of Partner Type, Relationship, and Pregnancy Factors", (1998), Fam Plann Perspect, 28(3):101-7.

14. articipatory evaluation workbook for community initiatives. N Wallerstein, K Maltrud, M Polacsek - 1997 - New Mexico: Department of Health.

15. J. Santelli, D.D. Celentano, C. Rozenicz, A. Davis, M. Davis, M. Polacsek, M. Augustyn, J. Rolf, A. McAlister, L. Burwell, (1995) "Interim Outcomes for a Community Based Program to Prevent Perinatal HIV Transmission", AIDS Educ Prev, 7(3):210-20.

16. M. Nebot, D.D. Celentano, L. Burwell, A. Davis, M. Davis, M. Polacsek, and J. Santelli, (1994) “Behavioral Risk Factors Related to AIDS among Sexually Active Inner City Females: A Comparison of Telephone and Face to Face Surveys”,  Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 48:412-418.

Funded Grants

Principal Investigator (current) 72062, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Healthy Eating Research Program 07/01/15-06/30/16 CAS024: Testing the Effectiveness of a Double-Dollar Incentive Program to Increase Purchases of Fruits and Vegetables

Principal Investigator: (complete) CHOICES Cost Effectiveness Studies for Maine Obesity Prevention. $60,000. June 1, 2014-June 30, 2015. Harvard School of Public Health.

Principal Investigator: (complete) Supporting school compliance with updated food and beverage marketing policies that align with the new federal competitive food standards. February 1, 2013-June 30, 2015. $170,000.00. Grant #71639. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Healthy Eating Research Program Round 8

Co-investigator (complete): Clinical Intervention to Prevent Childhood Obesity and Chronic Disease Risk, Maine Harvard Prevention Research Center. CDC cooperative agreement# U48/CCU115807.

Principal Investigator (complete): Maine School Health Policy Decision-Making. University of New England Patient and Population Oriented Research Grant. $12,000 matching grant to Bingham Program grant. January 1, 2012-December 31, 2012.

Principal Investigator (complete): Maine School Health Policy Decision-Making. The Bingham Program $8,000: June 1, 2011-May 31, 2012.

Principal Investigator: (complete) Examination of a statewide law banning junk food and beverage marketing in Maine schools. November 1, 2009-Oct 31, 2010. $75,000.00. Grant #66961. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Healthy Eating Research Program Round 4.

Co-investigator (complete): Impact of Maine’s Statewide Rule on High School NutritionEnvironments and Students Dietary Behaviors. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ID#57920.

Michele Polacsek's profile picture

Michele Polacsek


Ph.D., M.H.S.

Associate Professor of Public Health

Linnell Hall


(207) 221-4466

On Sabbatical
On Sabbatical:
Fall 2015 to Spring 2016