Michele Polacsek, PhD, MHS

Professor, Public Health; Director, Center for Excellence in Public Health
University of New England

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 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.

Maine-Harvard Prevention Research Center

The Maine-Harvard Prevention Research Center (M-HPRC) was a collaboration of the  University of New England Center for Community and Public Healththe Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC), and the Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical activity at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HPRC). It was created in 2000 at the request of the Maine CDC and had close ties to that state agency as well as to the state Department of Education and other state and local partners. The goal of the Maine-HPRC was to increase physical activity, improve nutrition, and reduce overweight and obesity in Maine.

The mission of the Maine-HPRC was to reduce weight-related morbidity and mortality by promoting evidence-based practice. Efforts focused on addressing disparities and on working to develop effective collaborations that will lead to systems and policy changes.

Dr. Polacsek was the Director of the M-HPRC.

Key projects included: