Heart failure: how NOT to promote men’s health!

The National Heart Foundation has withdrawn a national advertising campaign that showed a father telling his wife and child "if I really loved you both, I'd protect my heart to protect yours, but I don't".

A second man is who shown delivering a speech at a family party saying: "in time this family will be filled with loss and sadness, but i won't care because I'll be gone", while a young boy is told by his mother, "every time I told you I loved you, I was lying, you are not my priority". 

According to the advertising sector magazine, B&T, the Heartless Words campaign "inferred people who didn’t look after their hearts, and subsequently died of heart disease, didn’t love their loved ones".

The advert was initially heralded in some sections of the media for being fearless and emotive but soon received a barrage of criticism social media for using "shame tactics" and "victim blaming".

Dr Sue Walker, the head of obstetrics at the University of Melbourne and Mercy Hospital, whose father died of heart disease told ABC Radio Melbourne it was "a little bit reductionist to suggest that people died because they didn't care for themselves or they didn't care for others".

"To have a voice from the grave suggesting [my father] died because he didn't care for himself or for us perhaps lacks a little sensitivity," she said.

Another woman who lost here husband to undiagnosed heart disease wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald: "in every action he took leading up to his death, he was focused exclusively on helping other people. On loving us. On going above, beyond, over, under, inside, outside and through for us. He loved us to death. His death." 

Former Australian of the Year, Professor McGorry, a founding director of Headspace, joined the debate on twitter saying: "So people are to blame for their illness? That's been precisely the basis for stigma in mental illness and addictions".

Heart disease is the biggest killer of men and women in Australia. On average, 50 people a day die from coronary heart disease

Four out of five people who die of heart disease before the age of 65 are men. In total, five men aged under 65 die from heart disease every week in Australia. Men also account for more than 80% of the years of life lost to heart disease in Australia every year.

When compared with women of the same age, heart disease kills:

• 3.9 times more men aged 35-44

• 4.7 times more men aged 45-54

• 4.1 times more men aged 55-64

• 2.8 times more men aged 65-74

The aim of the National Heart Foundation campaign was to get more people to visit their GP for a heart health checks, which they estimate could prevent up to 76,500 heart events over the next five years and prevent up to 9,100 deaths.

Heart Health Checks were made available through Medicare earlier this year at the Heart Foundation launched a 'Serial Killer' campaign in partnership with News Corp Australia.

According to Campaign Brief, the Heartless Words campaign was due to run intensively for eight weeks and the continue intermittently until December. The full campaign including advertising on "TV, digital and outdoor advertising; promotion on the Heart Foundation website and social media channels; and metropolitan, local and regional press advertorial and editorial features via News Corp Australia’s print and digital assets, including a 20-page Heart Health print edition of Body+Soul".

The "Heartless Words" campaign has now been withdrawn and the Heart Foundation has issued an apology

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