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Assistant Professor
Department of Epidemiology and Health Services Research

100 North Academy Avenue
Danville, PA 17822
Fax: 570-214-9451

Melissa N. Poulsen, PhD, MPH

Research Interests

Trained as an environmental epidemiologist and behavioral scientist, Dr. Poulsen draws upon a broad methodological skillset in her research, including the use of electronic health record data, survey research, mixed methods, and formative and qualitative research. Her research interests center on factors that constrain or facilitate healthy lifestyle behaviors and that influence health outcomes, including socioeconomic determinants of health, psychosocial factors, and the environmental contexts in which we live. Her epidemiologic research considers the impact of these influences on health behaviors and outcomes at multiple levels. For example, at the level of the home, she has investigated how household food insecurity, the home food environment, and parenting practices influence the risk of childhood obesity. At the community level, her research focuses on the impact of the built environment (food, physical activity, and social environments) on diet and physical activity, childhood obesity, and diabetes. At the broader environmental level, she has examined the community health effects of industrial food animal production and the impact of unconventional natural gas development on agriculture, and her ongoing work explores how blue space such as the Susquehanna River affects health and wellbeing. Her ultimate goal is to integrate understanding of the connections between social and environmental contexts and health into community- and clinical-based preventive care and healthcare delivery. Toward this end, Dr. Poulsen works with colleagues in the Obesity Institute on intergenerational behavioral intervention trials that translate research into practice to prevent pediatric obesity, drawing upon her prior experience adapting and implementing community-based prevention interventions.

Recent Publications

  • Poulsen MN, Bailey-Davis L, DeWalle J, Mowery J, Schwartz BS. Agricultural implications of unconventional natural gas development: divergent perceptions of sustainable and conventional farmers. Culture, Agriculture, Food, and Environment. [In press.]
  • Poulsen MN, Knapp EA, Hirsch AG, Bailey-Davis L, Pollak J, Schwartz BS. Comparing objective measures of the built environment in their associations with youth physical activity and sedentary behavior across heterogeneous geographies. Health & Place, 2018; 49: 30-38.
  • Poulsen MN, Pollak J, Sills DL, Casey JA, Rasmussen SG, Nachman KE, Cosgrove SE, Stewart D, Schwartz BS. Residential proximity to high-density poultry operations associated with campylobacteriosis and infectious diarrhea. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, 2017. [Epub ahead of print.]
  • Poulsen MN, Pollak J, Bailey-Davis L, Hirsch AG, Glass TA, Schwartz BS. Associations of prenatal and childhood antibiotic use with child body mass index at age three years. Obesity, 2017; 25(2): 438-444.
  • Bailey-Davis L, Poulsen MN, Hirsch AG, Pollak J, Glass TA, Schwartz BS. Home food rules in relation to youth eating behaviors, body mass index, waist circumference, and percent body fat. Journal of Adolescent Health, 2017; 60(3): 270-276.


Post-doctoral Fellow, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Geisinger, 2015-2017
PhD, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 2010-2015
MPH, University of Michigan School of Public Health, 2004-2006
BA, Carleton College, 1998-2002

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