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American Heart Association's New Spokesman is a Walking (and Beating) Stereotype

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, November 18, 2009

Click to view larger version. "My name is Hiram B. Pressure, but you can call me HBP," says the American Heart Association's newest spokesman—a cartoon purple heart who sports thinning hair, white socks, and Birkenstocks. "And you can call me later, sweetheart. Hey-o!"

The American Heart Association created the rude and crude Hiram, who personifies high blood pressure, to educate the public about how lifestyle choices affect their health, all while keeping a comedic tone. Hiram is featured in an online video where he annoys restaurant goers with his obnoxious habits, such as excessive drinking, smoking, and eating a triple-decker burger topped with a mountain of salt.

"We've put a funny spin on the serious subject of high blood pressure," said David Meyerson, MD, director of cardiology consultation services at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and national high blood pressure spokesperson for the American Heart Association in a press release.

The video lives on the American Heart Association's new high blood pressure Web site, which includes information on related diseases and conditions, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Keeping with the jovial tone of the cartoon, the site also contains quizzes and animation.

"On the Web site, we've cut the medical jargon to let humor and technology help us reach both old and new audiences," Meyerson said. "Our goal is to use new tools, such as social media, to open the door for conversations about the condition among the one out of three Americans who have high blood pressure."

Hiram is also featured on a Facebook fan page called "HBP Escapees," which includes high blood pressure information and a video detailing the proper way to monitor blood pressure at home. HBP Escapees had 107 fans at press time.

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