Now in its 139th year, the American Public Health Association’s Annual Meeting and Exposition is the oldest and largest gathering of public health professionals in the world. The theme of this year’s meeting was Healthy Communities Promote Healthy Minds & Bodies: from October 29th to November 2nd, experts came together to discuss community health programs, public policy, prevention awareness campaigns and the impact of environment on well being.
Given our nation’s rates of diet-related disease and obesity, nutrition education and access to healthy options were widely discussed at this year’s summit. Dozens of food related panels and sessions were held on school lunch policy, worksite wellness, food deserts, consumer education, social media advocacy and more.
Meatless Monday was in attendance (along with the other Monday Campaigns) to show public health leaders that cutting meat one day a week can be a simple and effective promotion in a variety of settings. Not only is Meatless Monday popular in colleges, elementary schools, hospitals and work sites; it has become a global social media movement with hundreds of bloggers and tens of thousands of supporters on Facebook and Twitter.
Notably, APHA also served as the launching pad for the revised Healthy People 2020 recommendations. These government guidelines help shape public health assessment and include a variety of Meatless Monday related goals including; reducing saturated fat intake, consuming a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods, cutting diet-related disease and maintaining a healthy weight. Dr. Robert Lawrence, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and recipient of the 2009 Sedgwick Award for Distinguished Service in Public Health, recently noted that Meatless Monday was actually founded on the principals of these Healthy People guidelines:
“One of the objectives of the Surgeon General’s Healthy People goals for the decade 2000 to 2010 was to reduce the saturated fat in the American diet by 15 percent… It turns out that one day is about 15 percent of the week. So, since the biggest source of saturated fat in the U.S. diet is meat, Americans could go far toward meeting the Surgeon General’s recommendation by going one day a week without meat… we focused on Meatless Monday because studies suggest that people are more likely to stick with changes in behavior if they begin them on a Monday.”
The Meatless Monday movement can also help with some of the diet-related challenges acknowledged in the Healthy People 2020 report by building knowledge about the connection between diet and disease, bolstering culinary skills, creating a weekly prompt for healthy habits and offering social support online and in community programs.
Learn how you can bring Meatless Monday and a host of other effective public health promotions to your community or organization. You can also spread the movement by downloading our community, K-12, or campus action kit.