WISHING you a happy and healthy new year!

New year resolutions can have a very short shelf life but hopefully for those of you determined to make a change in 2008 you are still fighting hard after nearly two weeks of the new year and making progress.

Health-related resolutions seem to be the most numerous as many of us try to shed some of the weight gained over the holiday period by starting an exercise programme, signing up for the gym or getting a personal trainer. Apparently January has the most gym visits of any month in the year. Maybe 2008 is the year to stop smoking or the opportunity to change your diet and eating habits for the better.

If you have a resolution for 2008 or not, I suggest all of us should make improving our health a top priority. This was brought home to me in Parliament just before the Christmas break when I was able to sponsor the launch of a health promotion campaign in the UK South Asian community designed to bring about lifestyle changes to tackle the problems of heart disease, diabetes and strokes.

The advice given at this health campaign launch could apply to all communities but highlighted the fact that the South Asian community has a 50 per cent increased likelihood of suffering from heart attacks and cardio-vascular diseases than other communities unless action is taken. The health professionals told us that prevention is the best cure and this can be done through taking regular exercise, stopping smoking, curtailing excessive drinking, eating fewer sugary and fried foods and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Prime Minister Gordon Brown this week has also laid out his vision for the future of the NHS promising that it will be personal to each of us and focussed on prevention as much as cure. He unveiled a groundbreaking programme to screen people for conditions such as heart problems, stroke, diabetes, and kidney disease and to extend screening for colon cancer and breast cancer.

Locally, throughout 2008 I will be working hard with local health care providers to improve health services.