22 November 1998

The survey finds that fears tend to be different between sexes: Men are more afraid of heart disease while women are of cancer. Ironically, cardiovascular disease claimed the lives of more women than men in 1995, the last year of which the complete data is available, while more men died of cancer than females.

Of the well published diseases: slightly more than one in 10 Americans polled expressed fear about dying from diabetes, slightly fewer were concerned about Alzheimer's disease and only 4% worry about death from AIDS which mainly afflicts gay men and intravenous drug users.

Fifteen million Americans have some form of diabetes and fewer than 200,000 will die from it this year, far less from cancer or heart disease.

Four million Americans have Alzheimer's and close to 20,000 of those will die each year. President Ronald Reagan suffers from Alzheimer . Almost a quarter million Americans have AIDS and about one in six will die this year from it.

"The good news is that a growing number of people believe a cure would eventually be found for diabetes, Alzheimer, cancer and AIDS. Actually according to Cancer Society , total deaths from the disease has fallen by almost 3% lead by the decrease in deaths from cancer of the colon, lung and prostate for men, and breast and colon cancer among women.

Improvements in treatment of AIDS received a lot of publicity and as a result this fatal disease receives a disproportionate share o research funding.

The widest gap between fears and hopes concern heart disease. Only 7% of survey respondents think a cure will be found which forms only a fifth of the number of people who fear they will die from a heart problem.

US President Bill Clinton has proposed an increase in the budget of the National Institutes of Health by 50 % over the next five years. However, there is a popular sentiment among American politicians and voters that the present NIH's budget of US$13 billion (RM49.4 billion) should be doubled over the next six years.

I do hope our government, with a physician as prime minister will also double our health budget in the next couple of years. Malaysian voters will b supportive of building a healthier nation.

If Viagra has cured impotence and enhanced the quality of life, I believe similar "godsend drugs" would be discovered to help prolong life.

Of course, no matter how one may live, the moment of death will come. And when it comes, the billionaire will have no money, the pauper no money.

Meanwhile, stay healthy. Play golf, swim or cangkul (gardening). Whatever. Exercise, eat and drink (in moderation) and be merry.

(Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad is our Special Envoy to the United States.)

(This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Sun )