* In recent years, American attitudes towards health have undergone a dramatic change.

The evidence is all around us -- from sweatsuit chic to stress-reduction classes, from best-seller lists crammed with medical self-care books to supermarket shelves lined with low-sodium, low-cholesterol, low-calorie foods.

At the heart of this "wellness movement" is a simple, yet profound shift: More and more of us are taking responsibility for our own health.

Patients and physicians alike have broadened their focus beyond cure of disease to its prevention. We are recognizing the vital link between health of the mind and health of the body. We want to do more than just yet by -- we want to develop our full physical and mental potential, to lead vigorous, fulfilled lives.

The Washington Post's new Health section will explore the broad range of today's health concerns with an eye towards helping you improve your own health. We'll cover everything from medical advances to fitness, from new research to consumer concerns, from children's health to aging.

Today we debut with two weekly Health pages. On January 9 we will expand to a separate tabloid-size section. We invite your letters, and we plan -- in our coming tabloid -- a column for reader feedback.

To your health!