PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2012, 12:00am


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User-friendly health test worth doing

I am sure we are all saddened by the sudden death of a 26-year-old half-marathon runner in the Standard Chartered Marathon on February 5.

Sudden death in athletes before the age of 30 is usually unpredictable. Causes include disease of the heart muscles, hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy or sudden rhythm disorder, the Brugada syndrome.

While tests are available to detect those conditions, they are expensive and it might not be feasible to provide them to all participants.

There is no perfect reliable screening test which can single out those people at risk, especially in individuals with no symptoms. However, there is a simple tool called the revised Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q test), developed by the American Heart Association.

It asks about any history of chest pain, dizziness or blackout during exercise, and any family history of heart disease. The PAR-Q test is not perfect but it is user-friendly and is easy to follow - a lay person should not find it difficult to answer the questions.

People should take the test before participating in any vigorous physical activity. If any answers to the questions are positive, they should consult their doctors for further tests.

Those interested can find useful information in the 'Exercise prescription, promote health' website by the Department of Health and the Centre for Health Protection (http://exerciserx. cheu.gov.hk/files/DoctorsHan book_ch3.pdf).

Such a simple test does have limitations and all athletes need to take special care during strenuous exercise.

As a veteran marathon runner, I stress the importance of putting in adequate training and practice.

If one has any significant discomfort during the race, it is better to quit than to press oneself too hard.

Dr Ho Chung-ping, Tsim Sha Tsui

Long-term solution is needed

The influx of mainland women who come to Hong Kong to give birth has been with us for some time and it has brought some advantages.

For example, when they come to the city, they spend money and this helps our retail sector.

However, there is also a downside as their presence places a heavy burden on Hong Kong's medical system and leads to a huge demand for housing.

It is these disadvantages that have been highlighted, with many citizens saying that it is a problem that interferes with their daily lives.

This has led to a wave of discontent and I think it would be wise for the government to stop this influx.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has promised that the government will do its very best to tackle this problem. There is even the option to request a reinterpretation of the Basic Law. I think this could be the right decision.

As this is a deep-rooted problem that has been with us for some time, short-term measures will not work. The administration needs to come up with a long-term solution.

Teresa Fung Wing-man, Tsuen Wan

Get rid of mainland middlemen

I refer to the report ('Solution to birth tourism promised', February 7).

Various people are trying to come up with a number of solutions to tackle the problem of an influx of pregnant mainland women who want to give birth in Hong Kong.

I do not think that seeking a reinterpretation or amendment of the Basic Law would be the right solution. It is a major step to take. Instead, the government could impose strict entry restrictions on mainland women.

The Immigration Department should not allow women who are clearly in the very late stages of pregnancy to enter Hong Kong.

They could have doctors and nurses on standby to undertake an examination if that proved necessary.

All Hong Kong hospitals have to put a limit on the number of beds that mainland women can reserve.

The message must be got across to these women that there is not an unlimited supply of hospital beds for them. Preference must always be given by hospitals to local mothers.

I am also concerned about the middlemen [and agencies] who help pregnant women from across the border find a bed in a Hong Kong hospital.

They make reservations and then sell them on to the mainland women. This is an illegal practice. Therefore, it is important for the Hong Kong government to co-operate with the mainland authorities so that there is an effective crackdown on these middlemen.

Mainland women choose to give birth in Hong Kong because their children get right of abode and can enjoy our education and welfare services. But they need to realise the adverse effect their actions are having on local mothers.

I hope we will see an improvement of the current situation because it is important to maintain good relations between Hong Kong and the mainland.

Derek Ho Wui-hei, Tsuen Wan

We can cope with two runways

I refer to the letter by Lester Liu ('Fund health and schools, not runway, February 7).

I agree that the welfare of the public is more important than the construction of a third runway at Chek Lap Kok.

There are choices available at the airport. I prefer the option that would mean the present two-runway system would remain, but there would be an increased capacity.

I think this would be better than the huge budget needed to construct a third runway.

The first option with the status quo being maintained would cost an estimated HK$23.4 billion. This is a great deal cheaper than building the additional runway at an estimated cost of HK$86.2 billion.

The price difference is HK$62.8 billion and this money could be better spent improving the quality of life of Hong Kong citizens from the grass roots.

As your correspondent pointed out, this money could be used to purchase better drugs for the elderly and build higher-quality hospitals and schools.

Also, the two-runway system would do less harm to the environment. There would be no need for further reclamation and so the habitat of the Chinese white dolphin would not be at risk.

If properly managed, the airport will still be able to deal with the number of passengers and volume of cargo using Chek Lap Kok.

Maggie Chan Fong-chau, Tseung Kwan O

No budget joy for 'N-nothings'

I think the budget neglected the needs of people from the so-called N-nothing class.

They cannot benefit from waived rates or reduced salary tax as they do not pay them in the first place. And the HK$1,800 electricity bill subsidy will not help them as they do not have individual electricity accounts. Also the 'N-nothings' are not eligible for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance so they do not get the additional month's benefit.

Because many of these people live in subdivided flats they cannot enjoy the two months' rent for public housing tenants.

The government may say the 'N-nothings' can still benefit from improved medical services and the provision of retraining courses, but they will do so indirectly.

I believe that the budget should be revised to take account of the needs of these people. It could ensure they are given more help by making better use of the Community Care Fund, which could provide them with subsidies.

The government should also ensure people do not have to wait so long for a public housing flat. This would help tenants of subdivided accommodation who are having to pay shockingly high rents.

Isaac Au, Ma On Shan

British degree is superior

Isabel Escoda thinks that it is nonsense to view the American education system as inferior to the British one ('Hire Filipino nurses to cure shortage', February 11).

Having personal knowledge of people educated in both systems and also in Australia, I have to say that she is mistaken.

A British bachelor's degree will impart a much greater depth of subject knowledge than a US one, because during the first two years in the US, students do general courses which British students will have dropped before their A-levels (or Highers in Scotland).

An Australian friend who studied nursing in the US after completing an Australian nursing course found that the US courses were below the standard of Australian ones and that the American lecturers acknowledged this.

The only reason US universities top the league tables is that these tables are based on the universities' research and not on the subject knowledge required to complete a bachelor's degree.

If a bachelor's degree final exam content was used as the main criterion, the league tables would probably look quite different.

Roger Phillips, Sheung Shui