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by Abigail Van Buren

Checklist for Checkups Will Help Readers Stay Healthy

DEAR ABBY: People want to stay healthy at any age. In order to accomplish that, they need the most current information on how to prevent disease. They also need a practical tool to help them when they talk to their doctors.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), has developed screening test checklists for women and men, which include the most recent recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. They describe which tests you need, when and why.

"Women: Stay Healthy at Any Age, A Checklist for Your Next Checkup" lists screening tests such as mammograms, Pap smears, colorectal cancer and depression, and pointers on eating a healthy diet and quitting smoking.

"Men: Stay Healthy at Any Age, A Checklist for Your Next Checkup" contains a similar checklist, including prostate cancer screening, STDs, cholesterol checks, blood pressure and an immunization schedule.

I hope you will pass the word along to your readers, Abby. -- TOMMY G. THOMPSON, SECRETARY, HHS

DEAR SECRETARY THOMPSON: Thank you for a helpful letter. Effective medical care consists not only of curing illness, but also in giving people the necessary tools to prevent disease.

Dear Abby readers can request these free, pocket-size booklets in English or Spanish by calling the AHRQ publications clearinghouse toll-free: (800) 358-9295, or sending an e-mail: ahrqpubs@ahrq.gov. To download these prevention and wellness booklets -- and many others -- visit the Web site: www.ahrq.gov/consumer.