Dr. Polacsek received her BA in Romance Languages, MHS in International Public Health and PhD 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 professor of Public Health. As principal investigator, she has maintained research funding through four grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and one grant funded though 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 work currently focuses on digital food and beverage marketing to children at school as well as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program policy advances through the promotion of fruit and vegetables purchases using behavioral economics in the supermarket setting.
The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
chronic disease prevention
Social and Behavioral Health
- School-based food and beverage marketing to youth
- Grocery store healthy food incentives
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
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.
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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28147461
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. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25719624
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. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25046206
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. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3268808/
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. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21683275
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. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3044030/
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. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20433643
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. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19470601
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. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2687869/
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. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1637789/
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. http://hpp.sagepub.com/content/3/3/361.refs
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. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11414344
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. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10070588
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. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8827145
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. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7646945
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. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1059993/
Principal Investigator. Supermarket Science: Multipronged Approaches to Increasing Fresh, Frozen and Canned Fruit and Vegetable Purchases. Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2016-68001-24961 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. April 1, 2016-March 31, 2020. $797,955
Principal Investigator. Assessing digital food and beverage marketing in middle schools nationally to inform policy to restrict marketers’ access to children. RWJF Healthy Eating Research Round 9 (Grant #73389) February 1, 2016-July 31, 2017. $189,890
A pilot program to increase selection of frequently consumed healthier SNAP-eligible ready to heat foods. Becker Center for Behavioral Economics, Duke University. Principal Investigator-Alyssa Moran, Harvard School of Public Health. January 1, 2016-June 30, 2017. $50,000 (PI-Polacsek on Sub-award from the Harvard School of Public Health to UNE for $10,598)
Principal Investigator. Harvard School of Public Health Pediatric Obesity Project submitted April 1, 2016-1) message testing for CHOICES follow-up; 2) Maine Student pilot of Digital Marketing tool. Funded by private donors who funded the Harvard Prevention Research Center specifically for pediatric obesity work in Maine. June 1, 2016-May 31, 2017. $30,000
Principal Investigator. Healthy Double at Hannaford: Fruit & Vegetable Grocery Store Incentive. RWJF Healthy Eating Research Special Solicitation on Grocery. July 1, 2015-Nov 30, 2016, $75,000
Principal Investigator. Support for incentives for individuals to purchase fresh, canned or frozen veggies--Grant # 2015-034. J.T. Gorman Foundation. July 1, 2015-Nov 30, 2016, $25,000
Faculty Advisor and Co-Investigator, UNE Mini-grant: Youth Exercise in Sports Study (YESS) (Boulos-PI, Polacsek-co-I, .5FTE in kind). $10,000. June 1, 2015-May 31, 2016.
Principal Investigator. CHOICES July 1, 2014-June 30, 2015. Harvard School of Public Health funded by private donors: Maine CHOICES. Two microsimulation studies: 1) Sugar Sweetened Beverage Excise tax for Maine and 2) SSB SNAP Exemption for Maine, $60,000
Principal Investigator. Supporting school compliance with updated food and beverage marketing policies that align with the new federal competitive food standards. RWJF Healthy Eating Research Round 8 (grant # 71639). February 1, 2013-June 30, 2015. $170,000
Principal Investigator. The Maine Youth Overweight Collaborative: A Follow-Up Investigation. The Bingham Program. $8,000.00 for 1 year awarded June1, 2011-May 31, 2012.
Principal Investigator. The Maine Youth Overweight Collaborative: A Follow-Up Investigation. UNE Vice President for Research mini-grant funding. $8,000.00 for 1 year awarded June 1, 2011-May 31, 2012.
Co-Principal Investigator with Gail Dana-Sacco. Maine School Health Policy Decision-Making. University of New England Patient and Population Oriented Research Grant. $12,000 January 1, 2011-Dec 31, 2011.
Principal Investigator. Examination of a statewide law banning junk food and beverage marketing in Maine schools. November 1st, 2009-Oct 31, 2010. $75,000.00. Grant #66961. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Co-Investigator. Clinical Intervention to Prevent Childhood Obesity and Chronic Disease Risk, Maine Harvard Prevention Research Center. CDC cooperative agreement# U48/CCU115807. 2003-2012.
Co-Investigator. Impact of Maine’s Statewide Rule on High School Nutrition Environments and Students Dietary Behaviors. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Healthy Eating Research Round 2. $150,000 Grant # 57920. 2006-2007.