michele polacsek

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

Professor of Public Health

Director, Center for Excellence in Public Health


Linnell Hall 212

I am professor of public health and director of the Center for Excellence in Public Health at the University of New England based in Portland, Maine. I am trained as a social and behavioral scientist and over the past 10 years have focused my research efforts in two key areas: the promotion of healthy food choices in the supermarket setting; and protecting students from harmful food marketing in the educational setting. I was principal investigator on two recent randomized controlled trials studying financial incentives to promote fruit and vegetable purchases in this setting demonstrating significant increases in fruit and vegetable purchases among participants in the intervention groups with greatest improvement among low-income Supplemental Assistance Program (SNAP) users. I have been principal investigator on three recently completed studies of school food marketing and one current study of digital food and beverage marketing in the educational-technology space. I am currently leading a Department of Health and Human Services Administration-funded study to promote nutrition and socialization among low-income seniors in Westbrook, Maine. I also currently serve as the principal investigator for Maine’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed) for Maine’s implementing agency-University of New England. 




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


Public health


Current research

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

Selected publications

  1. Wilking C, Moukalled S, Polacsek M. Reducing Student Exposure to Digital Food and Beverage Marketing: Policy and Practice Recommendations. J Sch Health. 2023 Mar 2;. doi: 10.1111/josh.13315. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 36861751.


  1. Cohen JFW, Polacsek M, Hecht CE, Hecht K, Read M, Olarte DA, Patel AI, Schwartz MB, Turner L, Zuercher M, Gosliner W, Ritchie LD. Implementation of Universal School Meals during COVID-19 and beyond: Challenges and Benefits for School Meals Programs in Maine. Nutrients. 2022 Sep 28;14(19). doi: 10.3390/nu14194031. PubMed PMID: 36235683; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC9571988.


  1. Petimar J, Grummon AH, Zhang F, Gortmaker SL, Moran AJ, Polacsek M, Rimm EB, Roberto CA, Rao A, Cleveland LP, Simon D, Franckle RL, Till S, Greene J, Block JP. Assessment of Calories Purchased After Calorie Labeling of Prepared Foods in a Large Supermarket Chain. JAMA Intern Med. 2022 Sep 1;182(9):965-973. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2022.3065. PubMed PMID: 35913728; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC9344388.


  1. Franckle RL, Boulos RJ, Thorndike AN, Moran AJ, Khandpur N, Blue D, Greene J, Block JP, Rimm EB, Polacsek M. Implementation of a 2-for-1 Price Incentive for Fruits and Vegetables in a Grocery Retail Setting. Health Promot Pract. 2022 Apr 13;:15248399221086880. doi: 10.1177/15248399221086880. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 35414293.


  1. Utter H, Polacsek M, Emond JA. Parents' Perceptions of Privacy Policies and Practices for School-Issued Digital Devices: Implications for School Practices. J Sch Health. 2022 Jan;92(1):99-108. doi: 10.1111/josh.13107. Epub 2021 Nov 21. PubMed PMID: 34806187; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC8702464.


  1. Zatz LY, Moran AJ, Franckle RL, Block JP, Hou T, Blue D, Greene JC, Gortmaker S, Bleich SN, Polacsek M, Thorndike AN, Mande JR, Rimm EB. Comparing shopper characteristics by online grocery ordering use among households in low-income communities in Maine. Public Health Nutr. 2021 Oct;24(15):5127-5132. doi: 10.1017/S1368980021002238. Epub 2021 May 25. PubMed PMID: 34030759.


  1. Grummon AH, Petimar J, Zhang F, Rao A, Gortmaker SL, Rimm EB, Bleich SN, Moran AJ, Franckle RL, Polacsek M, Simon D, Greene JC, Till S, Block JP. Calorie Labeling and Product Reformulation: A Longitudinal Analysis of Supermarket-Prepared Foods. Am J Prev Med. 2021 Sep;61(3):377-385. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2021.03.013. Epub 2021 Jun 5. PubMed PMID: 34103209; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC8384707.


  1. Baquero B, Anderson Steeves E, Polacsek M, De Marco M, Chapman L, Leone LA, Simon C. Evaluating the implementation and impact of a healthier checkout programme at a regional convenience store chain.Public Health Nutr. 2021 Aug;24(11):3520-3529. doi: 10.1017/S1368980021001488. Epub 2021 Apr 6. PubMed PMID: 33820587.


  1. Petimar J, Zhang F, Rimm EB, Simon D, Cleveland LP, Gortmaker SL, Bleich SN, Polacsek M, Roberto CA, Block JP. Changes in the calorie and nutrient content of purchased fast food meals after calorie menu labeling: A natural experiment. PLoS Med. 2021 Jul;18(7):e1003714. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003714. eCollection 2021 Jul. PubMed PMID: 34252088; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC8312920.


  1. Zatz LY, Moran AJ, Franckle RL, Block JP, Hou T, Blue D, Greene JC, Gortmaker S, Bleich SN, Polacsek M, Thorndike AN, Rimm EB. Comparing Online and In-Store Grocery Purchases. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2021 Jun;53(6):471-479. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2021.03.001. PubMed PMID: 34116742.


  1. Emond JA, Fleming-Milici F, McCarthy J, Ribakove S, Chester J, Golin J, Sargent JD, Gilbert-Diamond D, Polacsek M. Unhealthy Food Marketing on Commercial Educational Websites: Remote Learning and Gaps in Regulation. Am J Prev Med. 2021 Apr;60(4):587-591. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2020.10.008. Epub 2020 Dec 10. PubMed PMID: 33309448; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC9092224.


  1. Hecht AA, Perez CL, Polacsek M, Thorndike AN, France RL, Moran AJ. Influence of Food and Beverage Companies on Retailer Marketing Strategies and Consumer Behavior. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2020; 17(20):7381.


  1. Petimar J, Zhang F, Simon D, Cleveland L, Gortmaker S, Bleich S, Polacsek M, Rimm E, Roberto C, Block J.Changes in Nutrient Content of Meal Purchases After Calorie Menu Labeling. Obesity. 2020; 28:65.


  1. Grummon A, Petimar J, Zhang F, Simon D, Rao A, Gortmaker S, Rimm E, Moran A, Polacsek M, Block J.Calorie Labeling of Supermarket Prepared Foods: A Longitudinal Analysis of Reformulation. Obesity. 2020; 28:11.


  1. Franckle RL, Thorndike AN, Moran AJ, Hou T, Blue D, Greene JC, Bleich SN, Block JP, Polacsek M, Rimm EB.Supermarket Purchases Over the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Benefit Month: A Comparison Between Participants and Nonparticipants. Am J Prev Med. 2019 Dec;57(6):800-807. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2019.07.025. PubMed PMID: 31753261; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6876700.


  1. Long MW, Polacsek M, Bruno P, Giles CM, Ward ZJ, Cradock AL, Gortmaker SL. Cost-Effectiveness Analysis and Stakeholder Evaluation of 2 Obesity Prevention Policies in Maine, US. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2019 Nov - Dec;51(10):1177-1187. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2019.07.005. Epub 2019 Aug 8. PubMed PMID: 31402290.


  1. Petimar J, Zhang F, Cleveland LP, Simon D, Gortmaker SL, Polacsek M, Bleich SN, Rimm EB, Roberto CA, Block JP. Estimating the effect of calorie menu labeling on calories purchased in a large restaurant franchise in the southern United States: quasi-experimental study. BMJ. 2019 Oct 30;367:l5837. doi: 10.1136/bmj.l5837. PubMed PMID: 31666218; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6818731.


  1. Polacsek M, Boninger F, Molnar A, O'Brien LM. Digital Food and Beverage Marketing Environments in a National Sample of Middle Schools: Implications for Policy and Practice. J Sch Health. 2019 Sep;89(9):739-751. doi: 10.1111/josh.12813. Epub 2019 Jul 3. PubMed PMID: 31269537.


  1. Moran A, Thorndike A, Franckle R, Boulos R, Doran H, Fulay A, Greene J, Blue D, Block JP, Rimm EB, Polacsek M. Financial Incentives Increase Purchases Of Fruit And Vegetables Among Lower-Income Households With Children. Health Aff (Millwood). 2019 Sep;38(9):1557-1566. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2018.05420. PubMed PMID: 31479362.


  1. Franckle RL, Polacsek M, Bleich SN, Thorndike AN, Findling MTG, Moran AJ, Rimm EB. Support for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Policy Alternatives Among US Adults, 2018. Am J Public Health. 2019 Jul;109(7):993-995. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2019.305112. PubMed PMID: 31166725; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6603470.


  1. Moran AJ, Khandpur N, Polacsek M, Thorndike AN, Franckle RL, Boulos R, Sampson S, Greene JC, Blue DG, Rimm EB. Make It Fresh, for Less! A Supermarket Meal Bundling and Electronic Reminder Intervention to Promote Healthy Purchases Among Families With Children. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2019 Apr;51(4):400-408. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2019.01.012. Epub 2019 Feb 12. PubMed PMID: 30765298; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6461501.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


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


  1. 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.


  1. Polacsek M, O'Brien LM, Pratt E, Whatley-Blum J, Adler S. Investigating How to Align Schools' Marketing Environments With Federal Standards for Competitive Foods. J Sch Health. 2017 Mar;87(3):167-173. doi: 10.1111/josh.12488. PubMed PMID: 28147461.


  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. doi: 10.1089/chi.2014.0132. Epub 2015 Feb 26. PubMed PMID: 25719624; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4382710.


  1. Polacsek M, Orr J, O'Brien LM, Rogers VW, Fanburg J, Gortmaker SL. Sustainability of key Maine Youth Overweight Collaborative improvements: a follow-up study. Child Obes. 2014 Aug;10(4):326-33. doi: 10.1089/chi.2014.0036. Epub 2014 Jul 21. PubMed PMID: 25046206; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4120928.


  1. Polacsek M, O'Rourke K, O'Brien L, Blum JW, Donahue S. Examining compliance with a statewide law banning junk food and beverage marketing in Maine schools. Public Health Rep. 2012 Mar-Apr;127(2):216-23. doi: 10.1177/003335491212700211. PubMed PMID: 22379223; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3268808.


  1. Harris DE, Blum JW, Bampton M, O'Brien LM, Beaudoin CM, Polacsek M, O'Rourke KA. Location of food stores near schools does not predict the weight status of Maine high school students. J Nutr Educ Behav.2011 Jul-Aug;43(4):274-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2010.08.008. PubMed PMID: 21683275.


  1. 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 Jan;8(1):A19. Epub 2010 Dec 15. PubMed PMID: 21159231; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3044030.


  1. O'Brien LM, Polacsek M, Macdonald PB, 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):176-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1746-1561.2009.00484.x. PubMed PMID: 20433643.


  1. 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:S258-66. doi: 10.1542/peds.2008-2780C. PubMed PMID: 19470601.


  1. Martin SL, Maines D, Martin MW, MacDonald PB, Polacsek M, Wigand D, Ronan L, Andrade M, Dufresne R.Healthy Maine Partnerships: policy and environmental changes. Prev Chronic Dis. 2009 Apr;6(2):A63. Epub 2009 Mar 16. PubMed PMID: 19289006; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2687869.


  1. 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. Epub 2006 Jun 15. PubMed PMID: 16776862; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1637789.


  1. Wallerstein N, Polacsek M, Maltrud K. Participatory Evaluation Model for Coalitions: The Development of Systems Indicators. Health promotion practice. 2002; 3(3):361-373. doi: 10.1177/152483990200300306.


  1. Polacsek M, Rogers EM, 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):344-50. doi: 10.15288/jsa.2001.62.344. PubMed PMID: 11414344.


  1. Polacsek M, Celentano DD, O'Campo P, Santelli J. Correlates of condom use stage of change: implications for intervention. AIDS Educ Prev. 1999 Feb;11(1):38-52. PubMed PMID: 10070588.


  1. Maltrud K, Polacsek M, Wallerstein N. Participatory Evaluation Workbook for Community Initiatives. [Print]. New Mexico: New Mexico Department of Health, Public health Division, Community Systems Bureau; 1997. 114 pages


  1. Santelli JS, 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. PubMed PMID: 8827145.


  1. 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 Educ Prev. 1995 Jun;7(3):210-20. PubMed PMID: 7646945.


  1. 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):412-8. doi: 10.1136/jech.48.4.412. PubMed PMID: 7964343; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1059993.