Advisory Groups

An Advisory Group, composed of key stakeholders with experience in designing, implementing, and evaluating policy and public health approaches to improve dietary behaviors and reduce chronic disease, provide crucial input on this research. Specifically, Advisory Group members provide guidance on the feasibility of the various policy actions, inform sensitivity analyses and alternative policy options for evaluation, and assist in disseminating research findings.

Policy Advisory Group

Cancer Policy Advisory Group

Heidi Blanck

Acting Director and Chief, Obesity Prevention and Control Branch, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention & Health Promotion (CDC)

Captain Blanck oversees CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, Obesity Prevention and Control unit. Staff monitor and assess obesity prevalence and key nutrition and physical activity behaviors and systems supports. The unit focuses on surveillance and applied research and evaluation. The division supports population-level initiatives in multiple settings (i.e., child care, schools, worksites and community venues). Specific initiatives include Childhood Obesity Research Demonstrations Healthy Hospitals, and Let’s Move Child Care! Dr. Blanck received her PhD from Emory University in Atlanta GA in Nutrition and Health Sciences. She has more than 14 years of CDC experience as a public health epidemiologist and has authored over 50 papers and reports. She a senior member of the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research ( and is the creator and Senior Advisor to CDC's Nutrition and Obesity Policy Research and Evaluation Network (

Simone Bösch

Policy Advisor and Consultant

Simone Bösch is a policy advisor and consultant specializing in policy and legal approaches to prevent non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and obesity, in particular through addressing diet and food systems/environments. Previously, she was the Senior Policy & Public Affairs Manager at World Cancer Research Fund International, London, where she focused on food policy and NCD prevention to advance the development and wider implementation of effective policies worldwide to reduce diet-related NCDs. She has held positions as health policy researcher at the University of Oxford, consultant for the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) as well as Applied Strategic Healthcare Consulting; she also worked as an attorney at a global law firm. Simone holds an MPH from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, a Master of Laws from the University of Zurich and is a bar-qualified attorney.

Wendy Denmark

is Professor and Webb Endowed Chair of Nutrition Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)

Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, PhD, RD is Professor and Webb Endowed Chair of Nutrition Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Dr. Demark-Wahnefried's research ranges from determining mechanisms of action of nutrition-based therapies that are implemented presurgery to developing and testing interventions that are scalable and which improve diet, physical activity and functional status among cancer survivors. Demark-Wahnefried’s research in cancer control and survivorship has resulted in well over 200 scientific publications, and recognition as a Komen Professor of Survivorship and an American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professor.

Don U. Ekwueme

Senior Health Economist in the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, CDC

Dr. Donatus (Don) U. Ekwueme is the Senior Health Economist in the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control (DCPC), National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dr. Ekwueme has worked as a health economist and outcomes researcher for more than 15 years conducting economic research on international and domestic public health issues in several national centers within CDC. Currently, he serves as the senior health economist in DCPC where he provides leadership and direction for applied economics and outcomes research projects and policy analysis, on the burden of cancer disease in the United States and other countries. His research focuses on using various modeling approaches to understand the interplay between economics, epidemiology, human behavior, and the prevention and control of cancer disease. A major area of his research also includes the development of methods to collect economic cost data to accurately evaluate and estimate the economics of national cancer prevention and control programs.

Leslie Given

Vice President of Strategic Health Concepts (SHC)

Leslie Given BA, MPA, is co-owner and Vice President of Strategic Health Concepts (SHC) a public health consulting company based in Charlottesville, VA and Denver, CO. Through SHC, Leslie works with health-related organizations, primarily in the area of strategic planning and program development, implementation and evaluation. SHC has worked with many organizations focused on cancer and chronic disease prevention and control, at the international, national, state, territory and tribe/tribal organization level. SHC has been instrumental in developing and delivering technical assistance and training to US comprehensive cancer control program and coalitions, as well as working with CDC to provide action guides and training to breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screening programs.


Melissa Maitin-Shepard

Senior Analyst, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN)

Melissa Maitin-Shepard, MPP, is a Senior Analyst at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, where she has served for six years.  In her current role, she helps to develop, advance, and implement the organization’s federal, state, and local public policy agenda on cancer prevention issues, including nutrition, physical activity, and weight management.  Melissa has led the development of numerous organizational policy documents, regulatory comments, and other advocacy resources on a range of nutrition and cancer policy issues and represents ACS CAN on several national workgroups and coalitions. Melissa has worked on chronic disease prevention policy for her entire career.  Prior to joining ACS CAN, she worked for Global Policy Solutions on a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation national childhood obesity prevention program, at the American Heart Association, and at Trust for America’s Health.  Melissa has a master’s degree in public policy with a health policy concentration and a bachelor’s degree from the George Washington University.

Jerold Mande

Professor of the Practice, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University

Jerold R. Mande is Professor of the Practice, Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and a Senior Fellow, Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, Tufts University. Mande joined the Tufts faculty in May 2017. In addition to his faculty duties, Ma nde is leading an initiative on advocacy, food policy change, and public health impact. Mr. Mande understands the complex intersection of nutrition science and policy and that merely supplying people with the right nutrition information is not enough to ensure a healthy public. Far beyond issues of personal responsibility, real change in public health requires changing our food environment. Mr. Mande brings a wealth of experience in public health, nutrition, and public policy to the job. In 2009 he was appointed by President Obama and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack as Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, and after two years transitioned to focusing on reforming the national feeding programs. Mande brings prior academic experience as well. Before joining the Obama administration, he was the associate director for public policy at the Yale Cancer Center, and on the faculty at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. There, he devised a national model that leveraged state leadership to increase cancer prevention and control, including diet and cancer, and was affiliated faculty with the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Nutrition.

Marji McCullough

Strategic Director of Nutritional Epidemiology in the Epidemiology Research Program at The American Cancer Society in Atlanta, GA

Marji McCullough is Strategic Director of Nutritional Epidemiology in the Epidemiology Research Program at The American Cancer Society in Atlanta, GA.  She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Dietetics from Michigan State University, a Master’s Degree in Clinical Dietetics from the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions, and a Doctorate in Nutrition from the Harvard School of Public Health. Her research focuses on the relationship of diet and cancer risk, primarily using data from ACS’s prospective Cancer Prevention Studies. Dr. McCullough serves on the ACS Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention committee, and has an interest in evaluating the health impacts of adherence to the guidelines. She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.

Deirdre McGinley-Geiser

Senior VP, Programs and Strategic Planning, American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR)

Deirdre McGinley-Gieser works as Senior Vice President, Programs and Strategic Planning at AICR.  She is responsible for the research, education and communication programs of AICR, and leads the strategic planning for the organization.  She facilitates collaboration for AICR across the WCRF network of national charities. Previously Deirdre worked at World Cancer Research Fund International in London, UK where she helped launch and grow the new international association to provide program services, policy guidance and strategic direction to its member organizations.  Her work there included setting up new national charities in Europe and Asia.

Gail Merriam

Program Director, Massachusetts Comprehensive Cancer Prevention and Control Network (MCCPCN) at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH)

Gail E. Merriam has over fifteen years of public health leadership experience. She currently is Program Director for the Massachusetts Comprehensive Cancer Prevention and Control Network (MCCPCN) at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, a position she has held since 2008. Prior to coming to the MDPH, she served as Director of Community Services at Hallmark Health for three years. In addition, Ms. Merriam worked at John Snow, Inc. in Boston, MA for eight years directing federal maternal and child health and substance abuse projects focused on technical assistance and capacity building. She previously worked at MDPH in 1993-1997, managing two state-wide programs providing pediatric and perinatal HIV/AIDS services. She also worked as a part-time Staff Coordinator of the Massachusetts Cancer Pain Initiative at American Cancer Society in 1992-1993.

Margo Wootan

Director, Nutrition Policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)

​​​Margo Wootan is the director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which was named as the top Ranked Nonprofit for National Childhood Nutrition/Health by Philanthropedia, a division of GuideStar USA, Inc.  Dr. Wootan received her B.S. in nutrition from Cornell University and her doctorate in nutrition from Harvard University’s School of Public Health.  She has published scholarly papers and reports in the areas of food marketing to children, restaurant foods, school foods, nutrition labeling, nutrition education, social marketing, and fatty acid transport. Wootan co-founded and coordinates the activities of the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA), a coalition of more than 500 national, state, and local organizations.  She also co-founded the Food Marketing Workgroup and has served on numerous expert committees. She works on expanding nutrition and physical activity promotion and funding and reducing unhealthy food marketing aimed at children.