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A Healthy Arm of the Publishing Industry

One in an occasional series


In today's rapidly changing and overwhelming potpourri of health information, where are you going to turn to stay on top of medical news you can use?

One place is consumer health magazines.

This is a category that, just like the field it covers, has undergone much shakeout and change in recent years. The mix includes about 20 titles ranging from more general old-timer publications to very specialized newcomers such as one targeted to women with cancer. Overall trends: more focus on baby boomer women; more alternative medicine coverage. Here are eight of the best:


* Number issues a year: 8

* Established: 1987

* Circulation: 1,050,000

* Cover price: $2.95

* Telephone: (415) 248-2700

Formerly called Hippocrates and In Health, this multi-award winner out of San Francisco remains one of the classiest health magazines. In addition to its well-written and broad-ranging editorial content, the publication is well-styled and visually clean.

Recent features: "Forgiveness," an amazing tale of how the mother of a kidnapped and murdered child discovered the healing power of forgiving people who hurt you; "Germ Crazy," on how to deal with wicked bugs from salmonella to E. coli; "Only Five a Day," a special report on nutrition in America.

Country Living's Healthy Living

* Number issues a year: 5

* Established: 1996

* Circulation: 400,000

* Cover price: $3.95

* Telephone: (212) 649-3535

This pretty newcomer from Hearst was designed to bridge the gap between mainstream and alternative medicine and does a good job. Its impressive board of advisors has many well-known holistic luminaries, including Dr. Andrew Weil, Jean Houston and Joan Borysenko.

Recent features: "Holistic Help," dealing with the side effects of chemotherapy; "Shrines for the Spirit," creating stations for contemplation; "Is This the Age of the Sage?" in which Joan Borysenko talks to Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and his wife, Eve Ilsen, about making the most of maturity.

American Health for Women

* Number issues a year: 10

* Established: 1982 as American Health; relaunched 1996 with new title

* Circulation: 1 million

* Cover price: $2.25

* Telephone: (212) 366-8900

As a huge fan of this magazine's predecessor, American Health, with its great body-part diagrams and back-of-the-book "Picture of Health" (who can forget that photo of Siberian schoolchildren being zapped with ultraviolet light to combat sunless winters?), I still lament its passing. But the 1996 revamp, which caters to women ages 35 to 55, does contain a ton of useful health information and strong medical pieces on serious diseases such as ovarian cancer.

Recent features: "Into Twin Air," on identical twin sisters who tackled Mt. Kilimanjaro to celebrate their 40th birthday; "When Doctors Say No to Managed Care," on what to do if your frustrated doc ditches your HMO; "10 Steps to Garden Tranquillity," about making your yard a soul-searching retreat.


* Number issues a year: 12

* Established: 1950

* Circulation: 3 million

* Cover price: $2.25

* Telephone: (610) 967-5171

From Rodale Press, this digest-sized mag is the nation's oldest and largest consumer health publication. Revamped this year to be more focused toward baby boomer women, it does a fabulous job of quickly imparting a vast range of practical action-oriented information.

Recent features: "How Are Your Bones?" on a simple test that can head off osteoporosis; "Find the Perfect Pair," in which the Runner's World footwear editor evaluates walking shoes; "Oh, That Hurts!" on how to avoid getting hurt by those awful passive-aggressive people.

Men's Health

* Number issues a year: 10

* Established: 1988

* Circulation: 1.5 million

* Cover price: $3.50

* Telephone: (610) 967-5171

From Rodale Press, this magazine took the industry by storm when it debuted as the first men's health mag a decade ago. Each cover sports a hunky man, and cover lines focus even more than women's health mags on fitness, fat and sex. But despite features such as "Strip Away Fat!" and "Sex: What Women Want," going inside is far more than just entering a sweaty men's locker room.

Recent features: "Will You Have a Heart Attack?" on the way you think counts; "8 Signs It's Over," on how to determine whether your relationship is teetering on the precipice; a nutrition special containing four useful articles on food, including "This Little Pig Goes to Market," a shopper's guide to the best-tasting low-fat food in the supermarket.

Natural Health

* Number issues a year: 6

* Established: 1971

* Circulation: 410,000

* Cover price: $4

(617) 232-1000

Started by Michio Kushi, a macrobiotic guru who's no longer connected with it, this good-looking and informative mag out of Boston was formerly called East West and then East West Journal. Chock-full of ads, it's a 200-page tome that focuses on natural remedies and alternative medical treatments.

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