PURPOSE: A comprehensive worksite health promotion program designed to reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease among 4000 city of Birmingham employees was used to develop and implement a tailored antihypertensive educational intervention. The mean age of the underlying population was 36 years, 89% were blue-collar or unskilled workers, 50% were African Americans and 20% were female. METHODS: First, we identified barriers to hypertension control: low literacy, difficulty understanding the need for treatment of asymptomatic disease, and wide variability of health beliefs and priorities. We then tailored an educational program, which offered employees health education sessions on a variety of different topics, including heart disease, cancer, sleep disorders and back injury. All program materials focused on lifestyle changes and the need to seek medical care. This program was offered to all hypertensive workers; 130 chose to enroll, and 81 completed the program. These 81 participants were matched by age, sex, race and baseline BP with nonparticipating hypertensive workers (controls). Changes in SBP and DBP from before to after the educational program were used to evaluate the program. RESULTS: Overall, intervention participants had a decrease of 4.5 mm Hg in mean SBP (different from zero, [p = 0.03]). African American participants showed a significant decrease (7.4 mm Hg, [p = 0.004]), as did unskilled intervention participants (SBP changes = 7.7 mm Hg, [p = 0.004]). Although not statistically significant, controls showed decreases in BP in the same direction. CONCLUSION: An educational intervention tailored to the specific health perceptions and working conditions of a low literacy population is feasible, and may have a significant effect on hypertension control.