Fotonovela Heightens Hypertension Awareness

“Lucia’s Llama Drama,” the USC School of Pharmacy’s latest fotonovela, explains the importance of managing high blood pressure — also known as hypertension — to a high-risk population.

The comic-book-style booklet tells the story of two women whose luxury weekend vacation goes awry amidst llama-caused confusion, leading to the revelation that one of the women has hypertension. Her physician and pharmacist inform her about the effects of blood pressure medicine and how to stave off the condition through proper diet and exercise.

“Lucia’s Llama Drama” is the 10th fotonovela in the popular USC School of Pharmacy series created by longtime faculty member Mel Baron, PharmD ’57, that combines health information with dramatic storytelling and photography. Published in both Spanish and English, the booklet is distributed at safety-net clinics, health fairs, pharmacies and other locations.

“Health literacy is a public health issue,” Baron says. “To be able to develop these messages for an underserved community and educate patients, that’s part of what pharmacy is all about.”

Fairfax High School student Josue Ortiz picked up a copy of “Lucia’s Llama Drama” in the lobby of Wesley Health Centers in East Hollywood and said he was glad to be entertained while waiting. “People who are going through a tough time with health problems can read these books and not feel so alone,” he added.

Studies estimate that each fotonovela is ultimately read by four people, so tens of thousands could be reached with these crucial tips. The format provides information to at-risk populations in a culturally sensitive way. These health education tools fill crucial knowledge gaps, conveying information in a way that encourages behavioral changes.

Fairfax High School student Josue Ortiz flips through the latest USC School of Pharmacy fotonovela, “Lucia’s Llama Drama,” at Wesley Health Centers in East Hollywood. (Photo by Linda Wang)

“We do our best to entertain and inform people about critically important health issues,” says producer Gregory B. Molina. “The idea is to keep people turning the pages.”

Produced by Molina, “Lucia’s Llama Drama” was written by Gabriela López de Dennis and photographed by Walter Urie. Baron serves as project director for the fotonovela series he created. Funding through the USC Good Neighbors Campaign, Keck Medicine of USC, L.A. Care Health Plan and the American Heart Association supports distribution.

Be a part of the impact the next fotonovela will have on underserved communities and patients by making a contribution to the USC Fotonovela Fund here.