Choice to Change

Mindset and the power of the Big, Beautiful Brain

Whether you are looking to eat more healthy, dig out of depression, do better in school or improve organizational behavior-it’s all change! Very few people are 100% content or happy with themselves and their circumstances. Personally, I am always on a path to improve- whether its my own character flaws or a public health problem. So how do we change? How do we change THAT one thing about ourselves (or multiple things)? How do we change our child’s behavior to chores? How do we change a drug addict’s choice? I am on this journey to explore these topics from a psychological perspective and also as a Christian. You mean science and faith complementing each other? I believe it is happening.

Now I have learned in the first “real days” of e-learning that I need to be paying better attention to my child’s e-learning, as he was missing some things. And as I am diving into this topic of change and mind set, I overhear a TED talk my son’s teacher assigned him titled, “

The Power of belief — mindset and success” by Eduardo Briceno.

Serendipitous? I think this is a great example of synchronicity.

Synchronicity Meaning: Message from the Universe | Synchronicity, What is  synchronicity, Meant to be

In this video he talks about the “Fixed Mindset vs. the “Growth Mindset”. This idea of a “Growth Mindset” was first brought to my attention by Carol Dweck. For all my friends who are peeved by Millennials who can’t finish a day’s work should read this book.

But I digress. Dr. Briceno states if we are to fill our potential we need to change our mindset. The key to do this is to realize We CAN change.

So step 1: Accept that you CAN change.

Now I am currently reading “Switch on the Brain” by Dr. Caroline Leaf. Like Dr. Briceno, she too states that the brain is malleable. Not fixed.

A large flaw within our thinking and society is that we need to be born with natural gifts and abilities in order to obtain or perform. I know myself as a parent, have told my child numerous times, that God has given him the natural ability for music. Now the problem with this is, when my son plays something incorrectly, he gets really frustrated with himself, and instead of working through the problem, he wants to quit for the day. Some of us may feel like we can’t pick up a new hobby because we weren’t given the opportunity to learn at a young age. For example, a language. We are told time and time again that the brain is best able to learn a language at a young age. That once we get older, it is hard for the brain to learn and remember a language.

This is so wrong.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

In Dr. Leaf’s book, she works with patients and clients who have had severe brain injury and/or learning disabilities. How many stories have you heard of someone being told they will never walk again but yet they somehow defy the odds and baffle the doctors? This isn’t battling the odds. It’s that big, beautiful brain that continues to function in an amazing way. Now if you are a Christian or religious, you might think this is a miracle? Well, if we look at what the bible tells us, really it’s just how God designed us and the power he bestows on us through him.

2. Understand it’s a process.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Hebrews 12:1

Isn’t life a process? Aren’t we always trying to figure it out? We are constantly growing. And growth is beneficial and scientific. This is important to understand for many reasons. If you or someone “falls off the bandwagon” they may not get back on the bandwagon if they don’t understand that growth is a process. Which is why if you are in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) its a lifetime commitment, where if you take a drink, you can come back. If you are on a diet and eat a bag of cookies on Sunday, no one should tell you that you can’t get back on that diet on Monday. Many health campaigns have learned that in order for people to kick bad habits, we need to recognize failure and give people non-judgmental agency to try again, and again, and again.

Every Try Counts Campaign | FDA

Fall backs are an important part of the growth process and without them we do not grow. And God tells us this too.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

So what does a Growth mindset vs. a Fixed Mindset look like in practice. Here are some examples:

Growth Mindset

“Wow, you can really see that you studied and worked hard to get that score”.

“Its shows you have been practicing your 3-pointers on the court.”

“If I start jogging and add 1/4 mile each week, I can build endurance, work on my breathing and increase my distance.”

“I was not a good communicator in my last marriage but I am going to ask my fiance to hold me accountable to a weekly date night where we talk about anything we need to.”

Fixed Mindset

“Wow, you must be so good at math with a score like that.”

“You must get your basketball skills from your Dad.”

“I just don’t have an athletic build and won’t ever be called a runner”.

If I messed up this marriage, who says I won’t mess up another.”

3. Make a deliberate intention to develop your abilities to change.

What does this look like?

  • Make feedback process related.
  • Listen for your fixed mindset. Listen for toxic thoughts. Negative thoughts.
  • Consciously change it. Talk back to it.

Dr. Leaf says to “catch those thoughts”. As Missy Misdemeanor Elliott says,

Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book provides a 21-Day Brain Detox Plan. As I continue to read this book and work through my own 21-Day Brain Detox, I will continue to share my own personal insights and its application in my life and work. I want to reiterate that this is a process. For me. For you. Whatever journey you are on. And each of us are on a journey. Whether we are religious/spiritual or atheist. Whether we feel perfect or flawed. And all good things come with time and practice. But know that you have it in you.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7

Final thought for my public health campaigners and social changers out there. How can we use this knowledge for positive, impactful social and behavioral change? For me, it reinforces the idea that SHAMING and GUILTING to not work. Knowing that Growth-Changing mindset is a key for change, how can we incorporate these into health campaigns? Providing actionable steps? Feedback loops? Positive reinforcement? How does this challenge us with reward and incentive products in a health campaign? Are growth-process campaigns better for specific target audiences? I would love to hear your thoughts below.

Thanks for reading!

Changing Behavior by Tali Sharot

How to motivate yourself to change your behavior

This TED- Cambridge talk was posted 5 years ago but it is still applicable today. It’s always good to have a refresher on a subject matter or be exposed to a new way of thinking when tackling a current issue. This TED Talk by Dr. Tali Sharot, a neuroscientist at the University College London, provides “3 key ingredients” on how to change your behavior, however, some of the examples she provides are organizational behavior change and customer behavior change.

The 3 key ingredients are:

  1. Social incentive;
  2. Progress monitoring;
  3. Immediate award.

One big take-away I got from this is fear appeals, shaming, threatening, warnings, etc. on the whole are not effective in changing behavior. Many impact evaluation studies have shown where negative messaging and fear appeal marketing campaigns are ineffective in changing behavior, however, some fear appeal social marketing campaigns have proven effective in road or driver campaigns. I think this is something we really need to dive deeper into. Think about social norming of face masks during COVID-19. What if 99% of people are wearing a face mask in a grocery store but one person approaches a non-face mask user and yells at them for not wearing a face mask. What happens? Do they decide to wear a mask next time? Ummm, no. What if they are told that they may have a pre-existing condition in the future or may pass the disease unknowingly to a loved one later. Does this change their mind? Probably not. Now what if the manager goes over the intercom and says, “Congratulations shoppers at so and so grocery store, we are at 99% compliance for wearing face masks and we are outperforming the grocery store so-so five miles down the road”. Does this change the non-mask user’s behavior? More likely. What if the manager says, “we are passing out $2.00 off your coupons for all mask wearers”. We got a winner. The messaging is positive. It demonstrates social compliance, progress monitoring and incentives. The benefits are immediate.

We seek positive information! We want to know we are okay and WE CAN change the outcome. Positive intentions are REWARDED and socially ACCEPTABLE.

“Kids and teenagers are the worst at learning from bad news”. Plug for the ever growing trend towards positive behavioral therapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy, in schools. How does this work in real life? “Son, you are getting better at picking up your toys, could you finish the job so we can go outside and play?” vs “Son, you still haven’t picked up your toys and you can’t play outside until you do”.

We get too much information and filter out what we don’t want or need by focusing on the positive information, giving us a distorted view of the reality. Self-denial anyone? I don’t know about you but my new thing is to tune out PEOPLE who don’t give me the information I want (anyone want to take a wild guess who it might be?). This is why it’s important for organizations to put out specific, timely, relevant and targeted messages with BEHAVIOR SCIENCE. Go beyond thinking about information or education.Don’t just put out anything to stay relevant. You won’t be.

Informational campaigns and education are not enough. We must get the word out to organizations and agencies that applying behavior science to impact change is a must-do and the more cost effective way to achieve results.

Racism Today: 101

A white person’s explanation of racism today for white people who do not see it, experience it and/or understand racism.

If you are watching the news or reading the news online you may be hearing a lot about “systemic racism”. For the average, white person, this may be confusing. Racism may be far removed from your day to day reality. When you see the video of George Floyd being killed by a police officer, this may look like obvious racism. It is wrong. We can see this. But how is this connected to the larger picture of racism in America? Let me help explain. According to Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones**, there are three levels of racism: institutionalized racism, personally mediated racism, and internalized racism.

Institutionalized racism is defined as “differential access to goods, services, and opportunities of society by race”. Where do we see this? Black people have fewer healthy food options due to “food deserts”. For example, in urban areas, large grocery store chains do not want put their stores in poor, urban black communities. Medical care. Blacks and Hispanics are less likely to have health insurance, and employee sponsored health insurance, and therefore less access to preventative health care services and medical treatment.

Institutionalized racism is the silent norm we don’t see until we take a look at the numbers and ask why? A black person is exposed to institutional racism before they are even born. They inherit it from no fault of their own. Ever heard the expression, you can’t chose the family you were born into? Same thing goes for a black person born in this county.

This is the structural or systemic racism the media is currently talking about. Often, this racism is codified and legal. Research the Prison Industrial Complex. It is corporate (ALEC). It is even purposefully built into our legislation. It’s sneaky and the worse kind of racism in my opinion because it is hard to pin on one person, it plays off the fears of the naive and/or ignorant people, and it kills in large numbers. One might even call it genocide.

How many of you have heard or even said, “our school is no longer good because they are busing in kids from poor neighborhoods?” Racism watch dog would have a barking fit. In an effort to increase access to better education for minorities and poor Americans, we balk at it because it brings our Great-Schools.com ratings down.

Let me give you a more relatable example. Ever had a legal issue? Someone, perhaps a landlord take advantage of you or needed to fight a speeding ticket? You may have hired a lawyer, or not, depending on how much money you had to do so or perhaps you knew someone in charge. You had ACCESS to power. Black people as a whole are systematically denied or have less access to power because of quality education, gainful employment, their physical environment, and personal safety. Like women in the workforce, it is harder to gain access to power and make positive change if there are less of you in numbers AND have less number of people in positions of power. How many people have filed for divorce? Every little thing you do has a huge price tag! People may lose access to their children in a custody case because they can’t afford the legal fees. Only people of wealth have access to a fair, legal justice system. It’s unjust. Minorities as a whole have less of a fighting chance in today’s systems of power.

But you may say, what’s happened in the past is no reflection of what is happening today. Yes it does. And unfortunately, it hasn’t gone away because bad, racist people still exist, and old, racist ways are ingrained into our systems and have never changed or dissolved.

I encourage everyone to view this movie to see how vulnerable we are to media framing and how institutionalized racism is in the county, especially in the prison system.

The Impact of Ava DuVernay's '13th' - Prison Fellowship

Internalized racism is defined as “acceptance by members of the stigmatized races of negative messages about their own abilities and intrinsic worth”.

Examples, if a black person feels less beautiful because their skin is darker than a lighter shade of black. Counter-racism, beauty ads showing women of color with varying shades of black and dark black women. Below is a short film which embraces natural black hair and I love it.

Another example, a black person using a racial slur as a nickname. Counter-racism, don’t use the n-word.

It is also a helplessness, a hopelessness and a resignation that because you are a certain color, there is no point of finishing school or voting, or taking care of yourself, because there is no point. This type of internalized racism is what I believe a lot of minorities are feeling today, what minorities are internally combating every day, and also the driving factor for radical behavior. When any marginalized people feel their cries are not heard and they continually face injustice, some no longer take a peaceful route of protest. I am not going to argue for or against violent protest, as this is not what this article is about, but I will ask that we remove our “white lenses” and try to understand the perspective of people who continually witness and experience racism and how this affects their mental, physical and emotional health and well being.

Personally mediated racism is defined as prejudice and discrimination. This is what most people see as racism. If someone is refused to be served because of their color, this is personally mediated racism. If your parent tells you not to date a black person, or vice versa, this is personally mediated racism. If you see a Muslim or Arab on a plane and immediately wonder if they are a possible terrorist, this is personally mediated racism. Derek Chauvin acted from personally mediated racism when he kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and murdered him. He may have been influenced from his personal upbringing (personally mediated racism) and/or told by his police department to target black men (institutionalized racism), in a predominantly black neighborhood (institutionalized racism).

What can we do right now?

First, reading and educate yourself. Leila Hakimizadeh shared these recommendations:

I am also adding some references at the end of this post and wanted to add “Devil In The Grove” by Gilbert King. A must read especially if you live in Florida. Personally, this book was so hard to get through because the injustice and hate are so awful. So I will commend you now for your efforts.

Second, recognize that just by being white, you are privileged. This is a hard pill to swallow for some. It’s like telling a young German person they are associated with the Holocaust. Ouch. I remember when I went to New Zealand and I was told that white people were referred to as “pakeha” and it meant white settler. Not me, please. But the truth of the matter is that until I learn from our past and understand how being white affects my life differently than a person of color, I can not begin to be the change I want to see. Here is a good read to help you get started…

Recognizing your white privilege doesn’t mean you are admitting to be a racist. It helps you recognize implicit bias, or your unconscious beliefs, stereotypes, actions, attitudes, etc. that are racist. It doesn’t mean that you are personally responsible for every act of bigotry and racism in America or anywhere. It makes you conscious and that my friend, is a good start. Acknowledging, recognizing and remembering our racist history helps us build a better future for everyone. And helps create positive, constructive change for our future.

Third, dialogue and relationships with people. Here is the catch…with people not like you. Bridge the gap. Here is a NextDoor post.

“Please, someone, tell me what I can do to help. I want to help.”

I like because it is intentional, honest and authentic. It’s getting the conversation started. Caveat… despite believing that social media is a power tool for change, I encourage readers and social media lovers to get out from behind the words. A brilliant idea?! Listen. Be prepared to listen with an open heart and an open mind. And better yet, choose before you walk into the room not to react. This is my own personal struggle, I react. I let instigators and haters get to me. Where can you listen and lend a helping hand? Organizations like the Boys and Girl Club. Churches.

Walk the talk. This reminds me of the London PSA you can hear at the train stops, “If you see something, say something”

From a NextDoor neighbor…“I appreciate this post, Jason, and love the sincerity in it. I don’t know if i have an entire answer for you but I have to tell you that calling it by name is the first step. Calling it by name every time you see it, hear it, feel it, or even benefit from it is the first step. Then, once you’ve done that start to research some of the brands, companies, organizations you’ve aligned with financially… See where they put your dollars. Identify if they truly do align with your personal values, then encourage others to do so too. Everyone in this room has mentioned the universal truth: racism is everywhere. But that doesn’t mean small steps can’t be done that may impact someone or something across the world. Lastly, donate to local organizations fighting racism. Small steps make a big impact. Thanks again”.

Fifth, legislation and politicians. Know who represents you. Research HOW they voted. Find out where their financial support is from. Not what they say they support. And VOTE. Know what is on the table and lend your support or disdain. Look into the legislation. Stand Your Ground. Citizens Arrest. A lot of legislation is implicitly biased or strategically engineered to further oppress person’s of color.

Sixth, raise your little ones right. Help them to understand racism at an age appropriate level. Don’t just leave it to your child’s school lesson on Martin Luther King or a Black History month assignment. Encourage them to make friends with everyone. And help them build empathy by sharing stories of why not everyone has what they have. Here are some books you can read to your little one:

It's never too early to talk to kids about race. Use these children's books about race and racism to spark powerful conversations with kids and teens. #race #weneeddiversebooks

Finally, I want to talk about the word “race”. Camara Phyllis-Jones, MD, MPH, PhD said, “‘ race’ is not a biological construct that reflects innate differences, but a social construct that precisely captures the impacts of racism”. We are in a conundrum of wanting to move to a place where color is no longer seen but in order to get to that place we have to recognize that color is both a privilege and barrier.

I once had a Canadian professor in New Zealand say we needed to stop using the word “race” because we are all of one race, the human race. And people who choose to identify based on their genealogy are identifying based on their ethnicity. I ask this question, can we stop using the word “race” in order to create a new social norm where our shared belief is that we are all human? While at the same time recognizing color as a barrier and the effects of the 3 levels of racism? Maybe we start by identifying by color on a census, not by a race? I’d love to hear from others on how we can move forward as one race while acknowledging the inherent privilege of whites and the barriers of persons of color.

Thank you for reading and please share.

**Levels of racism: a theoretic framework and a gardener’s tale by Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, MPH, PhD can be found here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1446334/

Reducing health disparities: critical preconception health now for better outcomes later.

We are in very stressful times. Whether it is because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our national state and/or the continued racial crimes committed against African Americans, a lot of people are in a heightened state of stress and feel helpless to help themselves and others. Like many others, I want to see long term positive impact for the improvement of black people and minorities in this country. And it is hard to see that in this moment. So I am offering today what I can as a public health advocate to improve the health of black Americans, create health equity and reduce health disparities.

As important as it is to show the general public police brutality and demonstrate against racial inequality, I also see how it fuels health risks among African Americans. Not only are peaceful protesters, rioters and police increasing their risk of exposure to COVID-19, they are creating bodily stress which can have long-term health impacts. Combined with a lifetime of systemic racism for black Americans, its a deadly combination. So in this moment, it is more important than ever that black Americans take care of their physical health.

Black Mothers in the US Are Dying at Alarming Rates

You may be hearing a lot about health disparities and health equity. Why is this? “According to the CDC, black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women’s health. Put another way, a black woman is 22 percent more likely to die from heart disease than a white woman, 71 percent more likely to perish from cervical cancer, but 243 percent more likely to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes. In a national study of five medical complications that are common causes of maternal death and injury, black women were two to three times more likely to die than white women who had the same condition.”.

https://www.npr.org/2017/12/07/568948782/black-mothers-keep-dying-after-giving-birth-shalon-irvings-story-explains-why

And why is this? Systemic racism and discrimination can cause something known as the The Weathering Effect.

The Weathering Effect

https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2018/01/14/577664626/making-the-case-that-discrimination-is-bad-for-your-health

Arline Geronimus coined the term to mean a sense of erosion by constant stress- how health is affected by big and small stressors in their life.

Infant mortality rates among African American babies are twice as high as those of the general population.

https://unnaturalcauses.org/episode_descriptions.php?page=2

What can we do about it?

  • Health is determined by an interplay of:
    • Genetics
    • Behavior
    • Psychological factors
    • Social factors
    • Environmental factors

…across an individual’s lifespan. This is known as the Life Course Perspective. Already black women and their babies are at a disadvantage because of the weathering effect, social factors (racism/discrimination), and environmental factors.

  • Each life stage influences the next
    • Each life stage impacts the subsequent stages, an integrated continuum
      • (infant → adolescent → young adult → adulthood → senior)
  • Social, economic, and physical environments interacting across the life course have a profound impact on individual and community health.

Hence the need for preconception health.

What is Preconception Health?

Preconception care is a set of interventions that identify and modify biomedical, behavioral, and social risks to a woman’s health and future pregnancies. It includes both prevention and management, emphasizing health issues that require action before conception or very early in
pregnancy for maximal impact.

If you or your partner are planning on having a baby in the future, Preconception Care can have a beneficial psychological effects on performance in labor, for both mothers and fathers.

So what can you do right now as an African American to protect your health, the health of your loved ones and your future children?

REDUCE YOUR STRESS

There are so many resources online for free, guided meditations, yoga videos, etc. I personally follow Yoga with Adriene on YouTube and have subscribed to a free Fitbit premium membership, which last 2 months. Or you can choose to pick up a book with exercises. If you have an Alexa or a smart phone, you can ask Alexa or Siri to play relaxing music, guided meditation music, even yoga videos. Now more than ever, stress relieving help and guided healthy, nutritional plans are at your fingertips.

A copy of my preconception presentation is open to the public here

If you would like me to share this presentation with your community group or organization, please contact me. If you would like to become a Preconception Peer Educator yourself in your community, the Office of Minority Affairs has more information. If you are a university student and would like to teach other students about preconception health, please also reach out to your state Office of Minority Affairs or contact me as well. And of course, feel free to share this information. Information is power. Empower yourself and others to make positive impact now. Be well and stay safe.

What if a COVID-19 tracking app was as popular as Pokemon Go?

As a public health practitioner, contact tracing is a vital tool and measure used to track and contain the spread of COVID-19. A few countries are using tracking apps to help with contact tracing and slowing the spread of COVID-19. But even within those countries, more participation is needed in order for the apps to be most effective. Given participation is voluntary, how to you increase their popularity and usage?

In this article, “Contact tracing apps: a behavioural economist’s guide to improving uptakehttps://theconversation.com/contact-tracing-apps-a-behavioural-economists-guide-to-improving-uptake-137157 , Drs. John Hawkins and Ben Freyens, from the University of Canberra gives us a few “nudges” in the right direction.

Summed up, here are top tips for applying behavioural economics for uptake in contact app tracing, and my own tips using other behavioral science theory.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Top Social Marketing Nudges for Contact Tracing Apps

1. Repetition in Messaging. Repeat consistent messaging. Messages are reminders. Applying the Transtheoretical Model, if people have made a commitment (the Maintenance Stage), reminders are important to keeping commitments. “They” say it takes 30 days to form a habit. A one time decision doesn’t seal a long time behavior change.

By repeating messages, you are also reminding potential users in the “Preparation Stage” to try out the app and can motivate users in the “Contemplation Stage” to move into the Preparation stage.

2. The Messenger. Chose them wisely. They are vital. In order to build trust with users, you must have a trustworthy messenger.

3. Social Influence. Normative beliefs. Observational Learning. Communicate what people are doing and how they are doing it. It educates and informs while shaping the social norm. For increasing users on tracking apps, now would be a good time look at how the Diffusion of Innovation theory could increase new users. Tap into what “innovators” are saying and doing to generate new buzz around the product.

4. Incentivize. Insurance companies using tracking apps can offer discounts on insurance or products for amount of trips taken and distance traveled. I know if my health insurance company offered me a $5 monthly rebate to use an app, I would. What if we got a coupon or rebate for ordering groceries and local food take out online? Count me in! Already companies are wavering delivering fees and restaurants are offering special discounts for curbside pick up.

Singapore launches contact tracing mobile app to track coronavirus ...

If you are curious what COVID-19 tracing apps are available for you area, here is a list of a few I have found:

Australia – CovidSafe

Hong Kong- StayHomeSafe

Signapore – TraceTogether

Israel – Shield

Utah, US – Healthy Together- COVID-19

North Dakota and South Dakota, US – Care19

PrivateKit (MIT) – allows you to share your tracking if you would like, can you where ever you are.

Norway – Smittestop

UK (currently under trial in Isle of Wight) – NHS Covid-19

South Korea – Corona100m

Other articles related to contact tracing include:

Curbing Coronavirus With a Contact-Tracing App? It’s Not So Simple.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/curbing-coronavirus-with-a-contact-tracing-app-its-not-so-simple-11588996809

How Europe splintered over contact tracing apps

https://www.ft.com/content/7416269b-0477-4a29-815d-7e4ee8100c10

Tech expert warns government shouldn’t rely on untested apps for contact tracing

https://wjla.com/news/spotlight-on-america/tech-expert-warns-government-shouldnt-rely-on-untested-apps-for-contact-tracing

Health Officials Say ‘No Thanks’ to Contact-Tracing Tech

https://www.wired.com/story/health-officials-no-thanks-contact-tracing-tech/

Happy Tracing!

Using Company Clout To Drive Social Change

Recently I read a great article, “Marketing Meets Mission” https://hbr.org/2020/05/marketing-meets-mission on how companies, such as Carling Black Label Beer, are using their brand to help promote social change. Written by Myriam Sidibe for the Harvard Business Review, she explains how marketing can be used to change social norms and adopt positive new behaviors, such as handwashing. This growing corporate trend generates “shared value” or when companies build economic value in ways that promote social good. Creating social impact does not just equate with brand awareness and profit, but it can “energize employees”, promote positive social norms, and improve social, environmental and physical well being. Take a look at the article to see some great examples from companies doing great social good, and how other companies can incorporate the “purpose tree” to create “brand advocacy”.

I will definitely be picking up a copy of Myriam Sidibe’s new book, “Brands on a Mission: How to Achieve Social Impact and Business Growth Through Purpose” https://www.amazon.com/Brands-Mission-Myriam-Sidibe/dp/0367428334

Social Marketing for Behaviour Change during COVID 19.

Behavioural Science application in the UK. Interview with Dr. Rowena Merritt.

Dr. Rowena Merritt is a research fellow from the University of Kent, a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Oxford, an affiliate professor at the University of South Florida, and Director of the National Social Marketing Centre.

Today she sat down to a Zoom meeting with me where I was able to ask her some questions relating to how the UK has applied behavioural science towards its policy and strategy during the current COVID-19 pandemic. She graciously answered some questions and we were able to compare applications of social marketing between the two countries, as well as hopes for ongoing lessons learned.

A big thank you to Dr. Merritt and I apologize for the rushed editing. I wanted to get the interview out as soon as possible, and I am not an expert on Premiere Pro…yet 🙂

New Tampa Road Safety Group Update

April 24, 2020

The very helpful Mike Flick from @HillsboroughCounty Traffic Engineering called today to give me an update on some of the requests we made in New Tampa and near the University of South Florida at Bruce B. Downs Blvd. and Fletcher Ave.


The counts for the Cross Creek Blvd. and Bruce B. Downs Blvd. intersection study were completed before COVID-19. This is good news because driver numbers have significantly dropped since the pandemic outbreak and slow counts would prevent the county from continuing with the study. However, the study is not complete. JMP, the consultant to Hillsborough County is still completing this survey. FYI, these are the improvements we are asking the county to make at the intersection of Cross Creek Blvd. and Bruce B. Downs Blvd.:


1. Reassessing pedestrian clearance interval for the crosswalk along Cross Creek Boulevard on the east leg of the intersection

2. A “No-right-on-red” light when the Crosswalk button has been activated for both the right onto Cross Creek Blvd. from BBD and the right onto BBD from Cross Creek Blvd.

3. Adding barriers or bollards in or near the bike lane on Bruce B. Downs right hand turning lane into Cross Creek Blvd. to prevent cars from cutting into the right hand turning lane

4. Extending the median on Cross Creek Blvd. to create a Median Refuge Island for pedestrians and cyclists trying to cross Cross Creek Blvd. at the intersection;

5. Adding appropriate signage. For example changing the current sign that says yield to pedestrians to include cyclist (symbol of bike and pedestrian, as shown on other BBD signs).

Good news….

1. The Kinnan Street pedestrian/cycling/emergency vehicle path construction starts in May! Lighting has begun on this new path by TECO.


2. Plans are in the works to continue adding lighting poles on Kinnan between Wild Bassett Creek and K-Bar Blvd.


3. Advent Health is working with the City to create a 10ft. wide concrete path from Fletcher Ave. to 138th! In addition, 1 pole/2 luminars will illuminate the path and Fletcher Ave.

I might be heading into work on a bike after all this is said and done.

Thank you to Mike Flick with Hillsborough County Traffic Engineering for your help and follow-up!

Public health social marketing in action during COVID-19

If you haven’t discovered it already, the use of social marketing for behavior change is kinda my public health bag, baby.

So right now during this pandemic my big, beautiful brain is working over time, watching, observing and creating my own social marketing public health response to slow down the spread of COVID-19.

In this post, I am having a sort of brain dump of observational what’s working and what can be improved upon. I love to see social marketing used effectively in action. For public health practitioners, this is a very informative time. Here are some of my initial thoughts.

Dr. Fauci is a messenger. My perception is that people stop and listen to what he is saying, and feel more comfortable following his directives, than say, President Trump? When the two don’t see eye to eye in a press conference, I am going to go out on a limb here and say Americans feel Dr. Fauci is the more transparent, knowledgeable and respected expert related to COVID-19. Which brings me to point #1. A messenger is a highly effective tool to change health behaviors.

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On the other hand, we have another messenger who probably didn’t mean to make such a personal impact on social distancing behaviour in his own country but he did.

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Making it social. In my opinion, the media has done a very good job in making #selfisolation and #stayathome messaging a positive and collective social norm. They have used the power of networks and social media to frame social distancing in a positive light, encourage good behavior, encourage commitments and build altruism. The One World: Together at Home concert is a great example of this. Not every day, you get a free concert in your living room, with famous musicians, comedians and performers, all promoting the same messages and supporting each other in a new behavior. Here are some popular COVID-19 hashtags (#’s): #COVID19; #socialdistancing; #coronavirus; #ShelterInPlace; #FlattenTheCurve; #StayAtHomeChallenge; #ViewFromMyWindow; #TogetherAtHome #MyPandemicSurvivalPlan; #QuarantineAndChill; #HealthyAtHome

Defaults and cues. Even though some have been slow on the uptake, most urban grocery stores have jumped on board with creating defaults and cues on how to social distance. For example, employees are wiping down carts, check out lines are taped off at every 6ft. and aisles have directional arrows. Cruises were doing in even better job of this before the pandemic became one. Royal Caribbean had hand washing stations before each dining area. They added guitarists and singers at each entrance to basically force passengers into washing their hands (do you really want to be called out for not washing your hands before dinner?). Upon exiting and entering the ship, you had to have your hands squirted with hand sanitizer by a cruise member. Not getting past them in a single file line. These defaults also helped define social distancing as a norm. It’s hard to not practice something when everyone else is without being embarrassed and socially shamed.

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Making it easy. A lot of public health messaging for COVID-19 has been broken down into simple, easy actions. One of my favorites is how to grocery shop safely. Everyone still needs to eat and everyone is still using this essential service so creating a clear, step-by-step guide on how to grocery shop is vital for pandemic control and should be a top priority for health communicators. This leads me to another point on making it timely. (See “Not Ideal” #3 below.)

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The challenges. Making it attractive. Humor, storytelling, images, music, and dancing make social distancing and self-isolating attractive, fun and social. They are great prompts and effective “openings” to public health issues that are immediate and chronic, from pandemic mental health to trying healthy cooking recipes, a new exercise routine or simply, enjoying quality time for your loved ones. #healthyathome #getmoving

Even when our governments weren’t responding quickly (or accurately), public health did a good job making COVID-19 salient. Information was going out to people on what is was and what to do. Most people were jumping on board even when they were not directly targeted, i.e. not immune-compromised or not 65+.

If you don't laugh, you cry: Coping with virus through humor | KMPH

Not Ideal-The Lessons We Are Learning.

Media blowing up the protests. The number of people who are protesting vs. the number of people who are adhering to public health measures are not comparable. Drawing attention to the number of non-compliance protesters does not help create a social norm of social distancing in a pandemic.

Social distancing vs. physical distancing. First, one can be social and still physically distant. With self-isolating comes increased mental and emotional health risks. It is confusing to raise the importance of maintaining social contact through web chats, Zoom, Facetime, etc. while at the same time using words like social distancing. Second, you are asking people to physically distance themselves, specifically 6 feet of distance between you and another person. If you could only impart one step that a person should take with words, you want to make sure that the word you use is the most effective in communicating what you want. In this case, actual physical distancing of 6 feet. One hashtag that has not taken off the ground on twitter but conveys physical distance is #healthyspacing but the best one would be #physicaldistancing .

Timeliness. As much as I appreciate the step-by-step guide on safely grocery shopping, the messaging did not come out until people asked how to grocery shop safely. It took governments a little too long to jump on the pandemic board. Thankfully, corporations took it upon themselves to create their own pandemic measures.

The timeliness of social distancing measures, monitoring, feedback, and evaluation could have been improved with Cooperation and Collaboration across multiple sectors. A lot of creative ideas have come out of the business sector, but unfortunately, these weren’t public health nudges, and we can learn a lot from others ingenuity. And local governments are doing a lot of mind changing it seems. People are looking for ways to cope. We need to identify touch points and capitalize on prompting people when they are actively looking for information. As different organizations, governments and corporations are navigating this pandemic, we need to share information and ideas.

The #safehandschallenge or #handwashingchallenge. I don’t like “The Happy Birthday Song” method and messaging. I like my own one better. It is not only attractive (b/c of its use of music, not me) but because I give steps on HOW TO EFFECTIVELY WASH YOUR HANDS. Especially with children, it’s important not to just teach them to wash their hands, but how to do it. And the steps are right there in the lyrics.

We failed in targeting specific audiences. All social marketers should know that one size does not fit all. Early messaging was targeted to the most vulnerable populations but we failed to identify audiences that were the least likely to adopt behaviour change. We must use behaviour change theories in order to create effective social marketing campaigns. Using the innovative adoptive curve for example, we would have seen that immunocompromised individuals and their families would be early adopters, the 65+ population would be the early majority. For a pandemic with such high viral loads, shedding efficiency, and incubation period, health communication should not have stopped there but continued to identify measures and build a campaign to target the late majority and the laggards. I can think of one target audience here in Florida, the spring breakers on the beach. And now with the growing politicization of the pandemic, the conservative right-wing protestors.

Public health is prevention. We need to plan. Prepare. Prevent. Not react. We cannot effectively treat without prevention. We need local governments to think and apply the social determinants of health in a systematic way before a problem occurs. Healthy equity and access to services should be embedded into planning, not just a reaction. Which leads me to another connection. People are searching for information from multiples resources. A person may be looking on how to use public transportation during this crises. Another may be looking for a cycling route with closed parks. By applying a social determinants of health framework, changes can occur simultaneously and in conjunction with each other. Teamwork makes the dream work. Hopefully individuals, practitioners, organizations, businesses and governments are all learning from this pandemic and will use this experience to improve. Health communicators especially can use this pandemic as an “opening” for behaviour change beyond #handwashing and #COVID-19.

Let me hear your thoughts! Please comment below with any other behaviour change or social marketing observations and ideas from this pandemic, or previous research that can help going forward! Looking forward to learning more and applying lessons learned to creating an effective social marketing campaign!

The Right Way To Pass Pedestrians

Here is another blog article I ran across on how to pass pedestrians while walking, running or cycling outside. It’s always good to get other people’s opinions and ideas, as well as the science behind it.

Since I shared my blog post on How To Social Distance While Outside https://tigerlillymama.com/2020/03/25/social-distancing-while-outside/ I have drawn some conclusions that I hope readers might find helpful.

10 “RULES OF THE CORONA ROAD” and tips for safely exercising outside while practicing social distancing.

  • “Imagine a person laying down across the street the sidewalk”. If you saw someone laying horizontally across the sidewalk or road, more than likely you would move around them or make an effort not to touch them.
  • Choose a less trafficked time. Personally, right after work hours (5-7pm for me) is a nightmare. So many people. And so many groups of people. I now run in the mornings.
  • #besafebesmartbekind Not only will you demonstrate good behaviour by moving over, if you smile while you do it, you will help others positively associate with this action, as well as make them feel better.
  • Remember, pedestrians (someone on foot) have the right-of-way on a sidewalk. When we ride bikes, we use the sidewalk because it is so dangerous to use the roads here but we still move over for pedestrians. Cyclist should move around a pedestrian(s) on their left side. Pedestrians if you see or hear a cyclist coming at you, or from behind. Stay to the right.
  • Not exercising alone?- Switch to single file. Just like in elementary school.
  • Walk on the grass. “Grass is not hot lava”. Most sidewalks are not wide enough for someone to safely pass you without someone moving onto the grass and dirt.
  • Give way to people with strollers, walkers and wheelchairs.
  • Imagine everyone is smoking and you are trying to get around the smoke;
  • If a child or children are alone- walk, run or cycle 6 feet around them. You are setting a good example, helping them feel more safe, and children don’t always act like the mature adult that you are showing them to be.
  • And finally, you can always wear a t-shirt like mine or run with a 6 foot pole, lightsaber or cat toy 🙂

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