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Tips for low-cost health

For 2010, we’d like to offer a few free health suggestions, aimed at giving you a healthier, and more affordable, year.

Give an e-card from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC actually hired a few Hollywood producers a few years back to add some cachet to the agency’s marketing efforts. It shows. The resulting e-cards, on topics that include cancer screening, sun protection and preventing teen dating violence to name a few, have cool graphics; some even have sound. To send an e-card to yourself or to someone else, go to https://www2c.cdc.gov /ecards/.

Clip coupons. Or, with less hassle, load grocery coupons onto a supermarket loyalty card. If I had remembered last week to clip the coupons from the Sunday paper for discounts on healthful foods I buy, I would have saved $6 on tuna packed in water, light mayonnaise and low-fat yogurt. Because I usually find two or three items in circulars each week that would put healthful items in the fridge or on pantry shelves, a $6 savings each week would save me a minimum of $312 on my yearly grocery bill -- and maybe help me lose some weight. Sign up for loyalty cards at the supermarkets you use, then register them at websites that let you download coupons directly onto the cards -- less clipping, more remembering -- including shortcuts.com and pgesaver.com. You may get some extra e-mail, but you can ignore it or check it out for possible extra savings.

Remember your community health centers. These centers provide care to anyone in need, including undocumented immigrants, at either no cost or on a sliding scale based on income. Not all centers have the same services, but staff members can refer you to other clinics for services they don’t provide. Even better, staff members will check to see whether you’re eligible for health coverage, such as Medi-Cal and Healthy Families. Find a center by logging on to https://findahealthcenter.hrsa .gov/ or calling (888) 275-4772.

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Ask a friend or relative whether they’ve had the H1N1 shot yet; get one for yourself. It’s no longer limited to people at highest risk in many locations. Los Angeles recently made the shot available to anyone who would like the vaccine. Call 211 for clinic locations.

Become a regular user of www.heathfinder.gov. This resource, developed by the federal Department of Health and Human Services, offers online screening tests, personalized health advice, a healthcare locater service and an annual calendar of health observances, accessible by clicking the calendar icon to the left of the home page. That part of the site offers health information as well as referrals to some low-cost and free care. For example, February brings Give Kids a Smile Day, on which dentists throughout the country offer free and low-cost care. For this specific event, find out if there’s a provider close to your home by logging on to: https://givekidsasmile.ada.org.

Offer a list of resources to people coping with paralysis. The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation estimated last year that about 6 million Americans are paralyzed, 33% higher than previous estimates. Know someone who could benefit from a list of paralysis-related resources? The foundation recently published a resource guide, which you can read online at https:// www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks /crf/paralysisresourceguide/. Or, order a free hard copy, no shipping charge, by logging on to www.paralysis.org or by calling the Reeve Foundation at (800) 225-0292.

Give yourself a break. Have you made a New Year’s resolution to swear off sweet treats completely? Revise that. You or someone you like can get a free 2 1/2 -ounce Baskin Robbins scoop, free of charge, to celebrate a birthday. But you don’t have to opt for the highest calorie choices. The company offers a frozen treat line called BRight Choices that includes no-sugar-added ice cream, frozen yogurt and sorbet. Go to www.baskinrobbins.com and click Birthday Club in the middle of the home page.

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A healthful lifestyle can have its own rewards.

health@latimes.com


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