“American Samoans are strong people. Their ancestors were great warriors and some still are to this day, but the average Samoan needs to hear the war drum again, not for an external war, but an internal war to live and to be healthy and strong again like their ancestors.” These are the words of American Samoa Community College (ASCC) Registered Nursing (RN) student representative, Julian DeWees, summing-up on behalf of his class the many health challenges facing American Samoa today. As part of the leadership requirement for the course Community Health Nursing Clinical Lab (NUR 211) the ASCC RN students will host a Community Health Fair on Friday, April 26th, from 7:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Suigaula Beach Park in Utulei to help raise public awareness of the crucial health challenges facing American Samoa and what can be done about them.
“Our instructor and group want to bring awareness to our people regarding the increase in chronic lifestyle-associated diseases within our population, such as Type-2 Diabetes, Hypertension, End Stage Renal Disease, and Gout” continued DeWees. “It’s important because we see these illnesses every day at the hospital, and everyone needs to take charge of their own health before it’s too late. No one can change your life but you. No doctor or nurse can save you from yourself. We hope to educate the public and support the lifestyle changes they need to make to be healthy and productive.”
In partnership with the Department of Health, LBJ Tropical Medical Center, and with the assistance of the ASCC Practical Nursing (PN) students, the Community Health Fair will offer the public, free of charge, a basic health screening which includes measurement and analysis of their blood sugar levels, blood pressure, temperature, pulse, respirations, and oxygen saturation in the blood. The PN students will collect participants’ basic vital signs and blood sugar levels while the RN students will provide focused education about illnesses common in the Territory and how to prevent them. The RN students will also share healthy lifestyle tips including diet plans and exercise regimens that can help people improve their overall health as well as manage the common illnesses. Specialists from ASCC Agriculture, Community & Natural Resources (ACNR)/Land Grant will be on hand to promote healthy food options, along with local vendors selling healthy Samoan dishes. The Health Fair will conclude with an exercise demonstration which the public is encouraged to join in.
The RN students, under the guidance of Lele Ah Mu, ASCC Nursing Program Director and instructor for the NUR211L Community Health Nursing Clinical, have organized the Health Fair as the Community Outreach Project. “We’ve been working hard as a team to provide the people of Tutuila and Manu’a with a memorable Health Fair,” said DeWees. “Those of us now studying to be RNs have all worked with the public to some capacity while we were PN students, and we know that countless numbers of island people have these illnesses, the local life expectancy is dropping, and the quality of life for many has diminished due to unhealthy lifestyles. We want to see real results, and for people to take charge of their lives!”
The group emphasized that the Health Fair will have something to offer individuals of all ages and states of health. “We initially planned to focus on the working adult,” DeWees explained, “because it’s easy to fall into bad habits when you’re busy, but as our project developed, it became clear that the younger generation as well needs to know the importance of healthy living. Prevention can be the best medicine, so regardless of people’s ages or the condition of their health, we hope they’ll all come to the Fair to learn more about the illnesses affecting American Samoa and how to prevent or manage them.”
Despite the Territory’s dramatic increase of health challenges as a result of lifestyle changes, the ASCC Nursing instructors and students feel confident that American Samoa’s people possess the individual willpower to overcome the situation. “It takes a lot of courage to change one’s life,” DeWees reflected, “but we believe the people of Tutuila and Manu’a are more than capable of taking charge again. There is a warrior in all of us, but for that warrior to be noticed you must act wisely and make healthy choices in life. The goal, as well as the reward, is to fulfill your own self-potential.”
For more information on the Health Fair, contact the ASCC Nursing Department through the ASCC main switchboard at 699-9155, or Lele Ah Mu at 733-4126.