Physicians across the nation can expect to be busier than usual this fall, thanks to a new health promotion campaign launched by the federal Office of Minority Health (OMH). As part of the national initiative to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities by 2010, OMH has designated September 24, 2002 as the first annual Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day. Although this year’s inaugural event is targeted specifically to African-American health consumers, the agency plans to expand the program in 2003 to also include Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans.

Through a variety of local events held in communities across the country–including health fairs, health screenings offered in parks and shopping malls, and airings of health messages on more than 240 ABC radio stations–the campaign hopes to encourage black Americans to identify someone they know who hasn’t been to the doctor lately and make an appointment for them. People who don’t have a regular doctor, or who lack health insurance, will be encouraged to contact their local community health center or health department to ask about free or low-cost care.

“By focusing our efforts on a single day,” OMH explains, “we believe we can generate a greater understanding of the importance of regular health screenings while focusing on those populations which tend to have the least access to health care.”

But the agency is quick to add that Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day is not just a one-day event. Instead, it is urging black Americans to consider any day as a good day to take a friend or family member to the doctor–or to make an appointment for themselves. The point, according to OMH, is “to go see a health professional and begin taking charge of your health.”

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