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 Any day is a good day to take a loved one to the doctor, and in that spirit, the Tom Joyner Morning Show and BlackAmericaWeb.com, are expanding the annual Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day into a six-month season.

So now saying “Doctor Day” slipped your mind is no longer an excuse.

Nine years ago, it started out as a day dedicated to urging black Americans to make it a point of getting loved ones who have avoided checkups or seeking help for a chronic ailment to get help, from something as simple as getting a dental checkup to a complete physical to a series of screenings for the issues that affect black people most: heart disease, stroke, HIV/AIDS, obesity, diabetes, cancer, women’s health issues and health care reform.

Over time, the Doctor Day season has expanded to provide constant encouragement to African Americans to take better care of themselves.

For black Americans, health disparities can mean early death, a diminished quality of life, loss of economic opportunities, and perceptions of injustice. These disparities also translate into poor productivity, higher health-care costs, and social inequity.

Health professionals, however, say the onset of a number of the disorders that afflict black Americans disproportionately can be delayed, managed or avoided with lifestyle changes. The general rules apply: quit smoking or don’t start, eat a balanced diet that is lower in fat and heavier in fruits and vegetables, watch your weight, exercise and get regular checkups.

We also know it isn’t always easy – just ask anyone with a string of broken New Year’s resolutions – but there are ways to get healthy and stay that way, but it starts with an assessment of your current health.

TJMS and BlackAmericaWeb.com will provide tips on staying healthy, reporting on how health care reform affects you and telling some of the success stories of those who found ways to turn their health around.

Many in the medical community are encouraging black Americans, especially women, to sign up for clinical studies in order to help researchers find the causes of disease and disorder in black Americans and to develop treatments and cures.

Getting a health screening and – if there’s a problem – a referral to a health professional, is a good place to start. A screening can identify a problem before there are any symptoms, which allow you to arrest the issue before it becomes a bigger concern.

Screenings provide community-based preventive health screenings at affordable rates, which can identify serious health issues. There are companies that allow you to go online, plug in your zip code and get a list of community centers, churches and health centers that provide low-cost screenings by medical professionals.

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