July 27, 2009

Meatless Monday Serves as Model for New Health Behavior Change Campaigns

Ralph Loglisci

Ralph Loglisci

Food and Health Policy Writer

The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) recognizes that one important way to affect change in the food system is to find ways to improve consumer purchasing and eating behaviors. The Meatless Monday campaign, which CLF endorsed seven years ago, encourages Americans to take control of their health by refraining from eating meat products one day a week. Meats like beef are more likely to contain saturated fats than most non-meat food sources. By cutting out high sources of saturated fats one day a week, Americans can help meet the Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2010 goal of reducing saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent of calories consumed each day. Meatless Monday has the potential to not only improve the populations’ health, but could also reduce unsustainable levels of demand for meat products, particularly industrially-produced meat, which use huge amounts of valuable natural resources and pose significant public health and environmental risks.

On the health behavior change side, the “Monday” model has great potential to serve as an effective communications tool to bolster virtually any long-term campaign.  The model provides health promotion communicators 52 times a year to hammer home a message, convey reinforcements, reminders, and prompts. Likewise, it also gives a person trying to improve her/his own health behaviors 52 times a year to restart their commitment or behavior change if they fall off the wagon.

This is the basis for the national Healthy Monday campaigns, which college campuses and businesses across the country are quickly adopting.  Johns Hopkins University’s student wellness center has implemented several Monday campaigns and continues to come up with new creative campaigns every year. Through CLF, The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public health has launched a Johns Hopkins Healthy Monday Project of which I am the project director. We’re working on several exciting research studies and initiatives.

I recently tried to extol the potential that the Monday model holds for helping anyone improve his/her health behaviors through an op-ed submitted to the Baltimore Sun. The op-ed was written as an open letter to President Obama, entitled: “A challenge to the ex-smoker in chief.”

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