michele polacsek

Michele Polacsek, Ph.D., M.H.S.

Professor of Public Health

Director, Center for Excellence in Public Health


Linnell Hall 212

Dr. Polacsek received her B.A. in Romance Languages, MHS in International Public Health and Ph.D. in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University. Following her doctoral training in the area of HIV/AIDS, she worked to develop community-level interventions and research using public health communication campaigns and community-based participatory approaches to public health under the supervision of Drs. Everett Rogers and Nina Wallerstein as Assistant Visiting Professor at the University of New Mexico. Dr. Polacsek came to Maine in 1997 and worked at the Maine Center for Public Health beginning her career in childhood obesity prevention research. Dr. Polacsek joined the University of New England faculty in 2009 where she is currently a professor of Public Health and Director of the Center for Excellence in Public Health. As principal investigator, she has maintained research funding through four grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and one grant-funded through the National Institute for Food and Agriculture. She has also served as co-investigator on other grants including several through the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Polacsek's research currently focuses on digital food and beverage marketing to children at school as well as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) policy advances through the promotion of fruit and vegetable purchases using behavioral economics in the supermarket setting.



The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health


Current research

  • School-based food and beverage marketing to youth
  • Grocery store healthy food incentives

Selected publications

1.   Polacsek M, Boninger F, Molnar A, Obrien LM. Digital food and beverage marketing practices in middle schools nationally can inform policy to restrict marketers' access to children. In press-Journal of School Health, 2019

Moran AJ, Khandpur N, Polacsek M, Rimm EB. What factors influence ultra-processed food purchases and consumption in households with children? A comparison between participants and non-participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Appetite. 2019 Mar 1;134:1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2018.12.009. Epub 2018 Dec 11. PubMed PMID: 30550893

Polacsek M, Dana-Sacco G. CBPR Interactive Role-Plays: Three Scenarios . In: in Community-Based Participatory Research for Health. Third Edition ed. Wallerstein N, Duran B, Oetzel J, Minkler M, editors. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass; 2018. Chapter Appendix 13; p.411-416. 419p.

Polacsek M, Moran A, Thorndike AN, Boulos R, Franckle RL, Greene JC, Blue DJ, Block JP, Rimm EB. A Supermarket Double-Dollar Incentive Program Increases Purchases of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Among Low-Income Families With Children: The Healthy Double Study. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2018 Mar;50(3):217-228.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2017.09.013. Epub 2017 Nov 7. PubMed PMID: 29126661; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6247420.

Franckle RL, Moran A, Hou T, Blue D, Greene J, Thorndike AN, Polacsek M, Rimm EB.Transactions at a Northeastern Supermarket Chain: Differences by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Use. Am J Prev Med. 2017 Oct;53(4):e131-e138. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2017.06.019. Epub 2017 Aug 14. PubMed PMID: 28818413; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5657566.

Polacsek M, O’Brien L, Whatley-Blum J, Pratt E. Investigating How to Align Schools' Marketing Environments with Federal Standards for Competitive Foods. J Sch Health. 2017 March; 87(3): 167-173.

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): 187-193. 

Polacsek M, Orr J, O'Brien LM, Roger VW, Fanburg J, Gortmaker SL. Sustainability of Key Maine Youth Overweight Collaborative Improvements: A Follow-Up Study. Child Obes. 2014 Aug; 10(4): 326-333.

Polacsek M, O’Brien L, Whatley-Blum J, O’Rourke K, Donahue S. Examining a Statewide Law Banning Junk Food and Beverage Marketing in Maine Schools. Public Health Rep. 2012 Mar-Apr; 127: 216-223.

Harris DE, Blum JW, Brampton M, O'Brien LM, Beaudoin CM, Polacsek M, O'Rourke KA. Location of food stores near schools do not predict the weight status of Maine high school students. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2011; 43(4):  274-278.

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): A19.

O’Brien LM, Polacsek M, MacDonald P, Ellis J, Berry S, Martin M. Impact of a school health coordinator intervention on health-related school policies and student behavior. J Sch Health. 2010 Apr; 80(4): 176 -185.

Polacsek M, Orr J, Letourneau L, Rogers V, Holmberg R, O’Rourke K, Hannon C, Lombard KA, Gortmaker SL. Impact of a primary care intervention on physician practice and patient and family behavior: keep ME Healthy - the Maine Youth Overweight Collaborative.  Pediatrics. 2009 Jun; 123 Suppl 5: S258-S266.

Martin SL, Maines D, Wingand  D, Martin MW, Bruno MacDonald P, Andrade M, Dufrense R, Ronan L, Polacsek, M. Healthy Maine Partnerships: Policy and Environmental Changes. Prev Chronic Dis. 2009 Apr; 6(2): A63.

Polacsek M, O’Brien LM, Lagasse W, Hammar N. Move & Improve: A Worksite Wellness Program in Maine. Prev Chronic Dis [serial online]. 2006 Jul; 3(3): A101.

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

Polacsek M, Rogers E, Woodall WG, Delaney H, Wheeler D, Rao N. MADD victim impact panels and stages of change in drunk-driving prevention.  J Stud Alcohol. 2001 May; 62(3): 344-350.

Polacsek M, Celentano DD, O'Campo P, Santelli J. Correlates of condom use stage of change: implications for intervention. AIDS Edu Prev. 1999 Feb; 11(1): 38-52.

Santelli J, Kouzis AC, Hoover DR, Polacsek M, Burwell LG, Celentano DD. Stage of behavior change for condom use: the influence of partner type, relationship, and pregnancy factors.  Fam Plann Perspect. 1996 May-Jun; 28(3):101-7.

Wallerstein N, Maltrud K, Polacsek M. Participatory Evaluation Workbook for Community Initiatives. New Mexico Partnership for Healthier Communities; 1997.

Santelli JS, Celentano DD, Rozsenich C, Crump AD, Davis MV, Polacsek M, Augustyn M, Rolf J, McAlister AL, Burwell L. Interim outcomes for a community-based program to prevent perinatal HIV transmission.  AIDS Edu Prev.1995 June; 7(3): 210-20.

Nebot M, Celentano DD, Burwell L, Davis A, Davis M, Polacsek M, Santelli J. AIDS and behavioural risk factors in women in inner city Baltimore: a comparison of telephone and face to face surveys. J Epidemiol Community Health. 1994 Aug; 48(4): 412-418.