Lerners’ legacy uplifts the Bloomberg School’s mission
Sara Benjamin Neelon installed as inaugural Lerner Professor
Dr. Sara Benjamin Neelon receives a commemorative architectural drawing of the Bloomberg School from Dean Michael J. Klag.
On April 17, 2017, Dr. Sara Benjamin Neelon was installed at the Bloomberg School of Public Health as the inaugural Helaine and Sidney Lerner Professor. Sid and Helaine Lerner, longtime friends of the School, endowed the new professorship as a permanent base of support for the director of the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion, established in 2014 with a gift from the Lerners.
The Center’s mission is to equip public health professionals with proven marketing and communications tools to advance health promotion and advocacy. With their generous support for the professorship and the Center, the Lerners have given the Bloomberg School a practical opportunity to train faculty and students to promote healthy behaviors as the best method for preventing chronic disease.
Dean Michael J. Klag, University President Ron Daniels, Dr. Sara Neelon, Dr. David Holtgrave, Ms. Katherine Footer, Ms. Peggy Neu, and Dean Emeritus Al Sommer.
Sara Benjamin Neelon, healthy child advocate and researcher
Benjamin Neelon, a child nutritionist and associate professor of health, behavior and society, gave a an overview of the mission and current projects underway at the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion. She also shared her own work, including an evaluation of Mebane on the Move, a grass-roots intervention that created new incentives and protected public spaces for exercise to prevent obesity in a high-risk North Carolina community.
Benjamin Neelon’s research examines how young children’s health is shaped by nutritional programs, physical activity, and other factors in child care and school environments. She has partnered with communities and policymakers to identify effective obesity prevention strategies to guide pregnant mothers, parents, caregivers, health and education professionals, and government agencies.
As a member of the Institute of Medicine Committee on Obesity Prevention Policies for Young Children, she helped develop recommended actions to promote policies related to healthy eating and physical activity for young children. She also assisted the Institute of Medicine in planning a research agenda for the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program. She is currently serving as a technical expert on a panel to help develop dietary guidelines for infants and toddlers in the US.
Legendary adman turns health promotion whiz
Sid Lerner is a Madison Avenue marketing veteran who worked on such widely recognized campaigns as “Please Don’t Squeeze the Charmin.” He later turned his sights toward promoting healthy behaviors on the local, national, and global levels.
Lerner first partnered with the Center for a Livable Future at the Bloomberg School in 2003 to launch Meatless Mondays, a simple but effective public health motivation campaign designed to reduce saturated fat consumption by 15 percent. Its simple message: “one day a week, cut out meat.”
Meatless Mondays grew into a global movement promoted in schools, restaurants, social media and communities in more than 40 countries. Peggy Neu (pictured at left), who led the expansion of Meatless Mondays and now serves as president of the non-profit Monday Campaigns, spoke at the installation ceremony.
Lerner Center Teams With Monday Campaigns
Inspired by the success of Meatless Mondays, the Monday Campaigns dedicate the first day of each week to health and offer weekly reminders to support positive behavioral changes in areas from smoking cessation to exercise to reducing stress.
The Monday Campaigns are a perfect match for the Lerner Center. In keeping with Sid Lerner’s mass media roots, the Center also develops, evaluates and promotes public health education initiatives through entertainment education programs that leverage traditional and new media.
“Our long term vision of bringing the public closer to public health, bringing the public to better self-care with the fruits of our research and prevention discoveries got a couple of steps closer with Sara as the inaugural Sid and Helaine Lerner Professor.”
David Holtgrave, who chairs HBS and served as interim director of the Lerner Center, praised the Center for allowing faculty and students “to explore innovative ways to share new knowledge with broader audiences and more efficiently connect the dots between public health research and practice.”
Sara Benjamin Neelon’s work on policy and environmental approaches to obesity prevention in vulnerable populations makes her the ideal leader of the Lerner Center. She will be a dynamic partner for continuing Sid and Helaine Lerner’s legacy of impact into the School’s second century.