Quit smoking. Eat healthier. Exercise more. Start exercising.
With high hopes, people start the new year determined to improve their lifestyles. But research tells us that even with the best of intentions, the majority will return to their old habits as weeks go by.
Healthy Monday is a philosophy to help people recommit to their resolutions and a healthier lifestyle long after the holiday decorations have been packed away. The simple premise offers people a weekly prompt to start and sustain healthy behaviors. A public health initiative founded in 2005 in association with the Mailman School, Johns Hopkins University, and Syracuse University, Healthy Monday aims no less than to end preventable disease in the U.S.
The initiative’s roots go back to 2002 when discussions at Johns Hopkins University on how to decrease fat and cholesterol in Americans' diets spurred Sid Lerner, Healthy Monday founder and chairman, to borrow an idea from WWII to promote Meatless Mondays. Then Mailman School Dean Allan Rosenfield worked with Mr. Lerner to expand the concept to address broader health initiatives such as smoking and exercise, thereby launching the Healthy Monday campaign in 2006.
Mr. Lerner, a former advertising executive and author of several books, explains that Healthy Monday’s appeal lies in being “able to use one day a week to get people to take on a good habit. It’s a motivation tool that works across the board on a number of diseases like heart disease.”
Since the program’s launch, the Healthy Monday campaign has developed partnerships with major health organizations like the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, and American Cancer Society. Healthy Monday also works with corporations, non-profit organizations, fifty-three universities, churches, and government agencies across the country. Overseas, it’s garnered support with European Union political leaders and musicians such as Paul McCartney endorsing the campaign.
Focusing more locally in the New York City area, the campaign works with Harlem Health Promotion Center, one of 35 Prevention Research Centers funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on an ambitious plan to partner with local universities, youth organizations, and faith-based groups to provide health information and advice to the Harlem and Northern Manhattan communities.
“Behavior change takes time and incremental steps – sometimes three steps forward and two steps back,” explains Alwyn Cohall, MD, director of the Harlem Health Promotion Center and professor of Clinical Sociomedical Sciences and Population and Family Health. “Healthy Monday lets people know that they can be forgiven for falling off the wagon; that the key thing is to keep trying and keep those health goals in front of you.”
“Understanding that relapse is a large problem for many people, a partnership with About.com uses weekly email newsletters to provide additional support,” says Michael Hernandez, coordinator of Healthy Monday initiatives at the Mailman School. “The enewsletters are chock full of information assembled by About.com health editors on hotlines, healthy habits, and health-related topics to help people renew their pledges and resolutions.”
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