Just 1 week ago, many Americans rang in 2012 by setting New Year’s resolutions. Millions vowed to eat less, lose weight, quit smoking, drink less and/or be more physically active. While research suggests that those who set a New Year’s Resolution are more likely to make a change than those who don’t, fewer than half of the resolutions will survive past February.
Sustainable behavior change depends on more than an annual declaration of behavioral intent. SurroundHealth Blogger met with the Monday Campaigns’ Sid Lerner, Founder & Chairman; Peggy Neu, President; and Morgan Johnson, MPH, Program Director, to learn more about the evolution of the Monday-centric campaigns.
How did the Monday Campaigns begin?
Sid: About 10 years ago, the public health focus at that time was on cutting saturated fat and cholesterol. My doctor had just put me on Lipitor. So, I asked Dr. Bob Lawrence from the Center for Livable Future at Johns Hopkins University , ‘How much is too much meat in the diet?’ He told me Americans were eating 15% more meat than we should. I did the math and realized this was about 3 out of 21 meals in the week. If we didn’t eat meat for one entire day we’d get less saturated fat. What day should it be? I thought of President Roosevelt in World War II. He had Meatless Monday to feed the country during those trying times. I dusted off the name and we started the Meatless Monday campaign. Since I was a retired advertising guy, I took it on as a project with Johns Hopkins University.
Where did the campaign first run?
Sid: Luckily, we had the internet so we built a Web site. Recipes became a big part of the campaign. Every Monday, we presented recipes and used press releases and bloggers to gain interest. To create a sustainable prevention idea, we integrated weekly periodicity into the campaign. We also tapped into groups who supported meatless eating. Today, more than 100 movers and shakers, like Oprah Winfrey, James Cameron and Mario Batali, are part of the Meatless Monday campaign.
At what point did you expand the Meatless Monday campaign to the Monday Campaigns?
Sid: We were working with a company, Chartwells. They liked the Meatless Monday campaign but wanted to address total health. So, we expanded the program to Healthy Monday – the day all health breaks loose. We built other campaigns – Move It Monday for physical activity; Quit & Stay Quit Monday for smoking cessation; Man Up Monday to encourage young men to visit their local clinics to get checked for HIV and STDs; and Kids Cook Monday to promote family cooking at home. Our most recent campaign is Caregivers’ Monday, which dedicates “me” time for caregivers.
What are the behavior change principles underlying the Monday Campaigns?
Peggy: The Monday Campaigns focus on incremental changes. People can start with small changes that easily fit into their daily routine and then go a little further each week. The goal is to take a little action and build over time rather than be overwhelmed by many things to do all at once.
Sid: Behavior is based on what you do on a regular basis and there is nothing more regular than the week. The week binds what most of us do – Friday is Pay Day, Saturday is Play Day, and Sunday is Pray Day…so we can use weekly periodicity to drive motivation and action. Monday can be our repetitive, motivational sustainable tool for behavior change. The big vision 20 years down the road is that Monday will resonate for health behavior in the same way that Saturday does for entertainment.
Morgan: Consider programs that use the health belief model . Most of these programs tell you HOW TO behave healthy and REASONS you need to behave healthy to help you overcome perceived barriers to behavior change. What Monday Campaigns adds is WHEN to act. Monday Campaigns provides the Cues to Action. Evidence suggests people who start a health behavior on Monday are more motivated and more likely to behave that way the rest of the week.
Seeking public health researchers: Monday Campaigns wants to broaden and deepen research on using weekly periodicity to promote and sustain behavior change. If you are interested in collaborating on research, contact the Monday Campaigns .
When you work with organizations, how do you approach it?
Peggy: We are trying to create a movement, not a top down public health initiative. We get some start-up ideas out there, then invite organizations to do their own things. We have an “open source” philosophy — we believe that success comes from spreading the gospel, sharing experiences, and making it open so people can borrow and build on what they already have.
For individuals or organizations who are interested in the Monday Campaigns, how do they get started?
Morgan: First, whichever health behavior an organization or individual is focusing on – be it smoking cessation or physical activity – do the activity on Monday. Instead of doing big health promotion pushes once a year, try to break it down and promote the health activity on a weekly basis.
Peggy: Second, we have a lot of promotional materials on our website that can be customized. Interested organizations can access case studies and a multitude of resources. For consumers, we have MeatlessMonday.com and TheKidsCookMonday.org. Both sites have toolkits and weekly, easy recipes.
Download the Healthy Monday Tip Widget for free. Add the widget to your own blog or e-newsletter. You can help spread the weekly motivation for healthy living.
What keeps you inspired as you work on the Monday Campaigns from Tuesday through Friday?
Peggy: It is so incredible the impact we are having, particularly through social media and the organizations we are working with. Giving up meat 1 day a week helped open up people’s minds to more changes. We just did a tracker of Meatless Monday and found that 50% of public is aware of Meatless Monday and 27% said it had influenced their decision to cut back on meat. To think that a small staff have helped move the country from 0% awareness to 50% awareness in 10 years…that’s incredible.
Morgan: For me as a public health professional, I am proud to be part of a campaign that is having an impact right now. I am also inspired by the novel approach of using periodicity to augment the great work of other public health professionals.
Sid: The best surprise has been the degree that different organizations have come on board with the Monday Campaigns. We have now gone global. For me, it is a real kick to be productive in my old trade of advertising but in this area of health that so needs it.
Monday Campaigns is one of several programs and resources featured within SurroundHealth. Join our free online community where health professionals come together to learn, share and inspire.