The Monday Campaigns: Q&A with Rachelle Reeder

Nov 4, 2013, 2:51 PM

Research shows that people invariably look at Mondays as a time to reconsider their habits and even perhaps to make changes in their lives. The Monday Campaigns movement is a non-profit initiative that works to make healthy behaviors a focus at the beginning of every week.

NewPublicHealth spoke with Rachelle Reeder, Program & Research Associate at The Monday Campaigns, about how their efforts are helping to improve public health.

NewPublicHealth: We’re very interested about the Monday conferences and college students. Are they a specific demographic that you’re targeting now?

Rachelle Reeder: Yes. We’ve been targeting many different groups, whether it’s hospitals, college students, K-12. We target a lot of different groups depending on the campaigns. We provide universities—or any of our partners, but universities particularly—with catchy social marketing campaigns to kind of help and encourage the students to adopt and sustain healthy behaviors, and we do everything for free. So we might be working with student health centers, with food service providers, wellness teams or student groups themselves. But our organization is this blend of marketers and public health professionals, so usually what we’re able to offer universities are these compelling, creative campaigns that are also backed by research and a theory.

So that’s one of the great things about the Monday campaigns. And actually, I’m a public health professional myself and I’ve seen a lot of universities or public health services out there and they’re doing great things, but they don’t always have the skills or the capacity to market themselves, so that’s kind of where we step in and provide them with that marketing and creative expertise.

NPH: How would the efforts toward college students be different than they would be toward an older or even a younger demographic?

Reeder: It just kind of depends on the tone of the different campaigns that we take. For instance, we have Man Up Monday, which was really successful over at Murray State University. That campaign has kind of a cheeky sort of fun vibe that’s supposed to be a little bit funny, but what it is it’s reaching out to young men and it’s all about sexual health. Basically they encourage young men to engage in healthy sexual behavior on Mondays, to use Monday as the day to restock condoms, to make an appointment to get tested or to just reflect on decisions over the weekend. So that’s just an example of one of our university partners and that campaign wouldn’t necessarily be something we’d target for younger audiences or something like that.

NPH: When did you start the campaigns aimed squarely at college students and what feedback have you gotten on them?

Reeder: Our campaigns started about ten years ago, but they weren’t particularly just for college students. We were putting them out there for a general audience. They started with Meatless Monday and we kind of watched the campaign turn into this grassroots movement with restaurants, schools and universities all using Meatless Monday, and then we expanded to Healthy Monday and a bunch of other health behaviors.

Usually what would happen was we’d find an organization that saw our campaign and wanted to use it, and we adapted to their population, and we kind of used their feedback and tried to tailor the messaging so that it fit their audiences. So, it actually started more with them reaching out to us, but we actually have relationships with different universities that have been well established—the Meatless Monday was established with Johns Hopkins University, our Man Up Monday campaign was established with Columbia University and the Harlem Health Promotions Center there. We do a lot of with Syracuse University, so all of these campaigns have actually really started and then developed with the university community and the students.

NPH: What is some feedback you’ve gotten from students that’s made you rejigger the campaign in any way?

Reeder: We have a university Meatless Monday coalition and it gives people an opportunity to all come together and share their best practices. We hear different ways to promote the campaign, such as celebrating local produce and Meatless Monday as a chance to eat more vegetables. That’s an approach that we heard actually originally from one of our university partners and that came from feedback from their students. If we hear any feedback from students about things they’re concerned about or things that they would rather see, we consider all of these things with our messaging.

NPH: Do you have a sense that what students pay attention to in some of the Monday campaigns have carried over into their adult life?

Reeder: You know that’s something we’d really like to find out. This is something that’s been going on for ten years and we haven’t done much of a longitudinal study, so something we’re always looking to learn more about is how these behaviors affect people into the future.

NPH: Concerning your Monday campaigns, is there any reason to expand that? Would it be valuable at this point now to add a day or to suggest to participants in the program that they add a day? Or does the “one day a week” sort of force contemplation on the issues so the appropriate way to go?

Reeder: Well, the way we see it is Monday is this cue to action to start thinking about healthy behaviors, so that’s kind of going along the lines of things that are in the health belief model. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with any public health theory, but the health belief model has this component called a cue to action. It’s a trigger that makes somebody contemplate behavior change and we’re trying to be that trigger.

And what’s great about the Monday campaigns is that it uses this Monday concept. We all experience a Monday—it’s this natural recurring cue that we have each week, so that gives somebody 52 chances a year to take these small steps toward behavior change. And the reason we focus on Monday in particular is because of the evidence that demonstrates that people are open to behavior change on Mondays.

We had an article that just came out in JAMA—our program and research director is a co-author on it—and it looks at Google searches for smoking cessation terms and finds that there are more searches on Monday than any other day. But what makes it great is that the Google search data is publicly available so anyone can go on to Google Insights and just search for trends. And if you search “healthy” in there, you’ll see this consistent pattern where people are searching for it. Whether that’s for healthy recipes or something, they’re looking for these things on Mondays and then it kind of dropped off over the week and then spikes again on Monday.

NPH: What’s upcoming in the Monday campaigns? What will be new for 2014?

Reeder: We just celebrated our ten-year anniversary for Meatless Monday, so that’s really exciting. We’re hoping to see that grow; we’ve kind of watched it grow from this grassroots movement with hundreds of restaurants, schools...we even have 22 countries worldwide that have Meatless Monday programs there. So we’re hoping to keep growing there, as well as we’d like to see all our other campaigns grow to have the success that Meatless Monday has had. So I think the Meatless Monday campaign has had that success because it’s more than just memorable alliteration, it has that natural, weekly cue to action. It’s all there in the title: cut back your meat consumption for your health and the health of the planet, and when you do it you do it on Mondays.

So we’re hoping to grow those other campaigns that we have to be as large as Meatless Monday and then there might actually be some other campaigns that we’re working on. We’ve thought about moving in the direction of stress reduction or with women’s sexual health. So hopefully those are all things that’ll come in 2014.

NPH: Is there a runner up to Meatless Monday? What’s the second most popular of all the campaigns?

Reeder: It’s a toss-up. I think one of our biggest campaigns is our Move It Monday, because it has the Monday Mile as a component. That’s something that’s actually been really popular with the universities as well. Syracuse University, for instance, has a bunch of different walking routes around the city and that was started by the university. But it has now become a city-wide declaration in Syracuse to make Monday Move It Monday or to celebrate the Monday Mile, and that just encourages people to participate in some physical activity, to start your week out strong by just walking 30 minutes a day.

So I think that that is one of our more popular campaigns behind Meatless Monday. Another one is our Kids Cook Monday, that’s kind of blowing up. Everybody is really excited about getting kids in the kitchen and using Monday as that day to teach kids about healthy eating, about what goes into their food, and getting them excited about eating new fruits and vegetables and healthy ingredients.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.