The overall goal of the American Samoa Area Health Education Center (AHEC), a program hosted by American Samoa Community College (ASCC), is to improve the health of the underserved through education and health workforce development. Locally, AHEC pursues this goal by offering health education opportunities for students in the Territory’s high schools and supporting existing initiatives at ASCC itself. AHEC also provides professional development training opportunities for healthcare workers already practicing in the field. AHEC’s most recent health education activity was its Teen Health Camp held on Saturday, December 17th, at which more than 40 high school students spent the morning on the ASCC campus receiving hands-on training in medical services and technology.
The Teen Health Camp, the first event of its kind ever held in American Samoa, drew students from Tafuna High School, Samoana High School, Nuuuli Voc-Tech High School, Fagaitua High School and Manumalo Baptist Academy. While the Camp was open to all high school students, most participants belong to the chapters at their respective schools of HOSA-Future Health Professionals In American Samoa, an association run collaboratively between ASCC-AHEC and ASDOE. The majority of those in attendance were high school Seniors, but there was a range in ages, with the youngest being a Freshmen aged just 13.
Beginning with a presentation by the Department of Health Human Resource Division on the general ASG employment application process, the Camp thereafter followed a format where the students were organized into four even-sized groups and rotated between four training sessions in the areas of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), Casting, Suturing, and a new form technology known as Makey Makey, which has frequent applications in the medical field. Training facilitators included AHEC Program Director Monica Afalava, who led the CPR sessions, and visiting Associate Director of the main AHEC Program Office in Honolulu, Erica Davis, who co-facilitated the Casting sessions. AHEC Scholar provided assistance and led the remaining sessions.
The four separate group sessions all lasted approximately an hour, and gave the participants an opportunity to gain hands-on experience with the subject. The CPR session, facilitated by Afalava with assistance from AHEC Scholar Earendill Samuelu, began with a detailed explanation of the steps to follow when administering the treatment, including safety concerns, after which each student performed the procedure on a dummy they were provided with. During the Casting session, led by Davis and AHEC Scholar Annabelle Faimanu, each student was shown how apply a cast to the hand of their partner, who in turn applied a cast to them. At the end of the session, the groups were shown the correct method of safely removing the casts. The Suturing session, facilitated by AHEC Scholars Hannah-Lei Utu and Lena Lualua, involved students being shown the procedures for sewing a wound closed, then working individually or in pairs to practice on prosthetic arms.
The most unusual session for the Health Camp participants was their introduction to the recently developed device called Makey Makey, which is an invention kit designed to connect everyday objects to computer keys. Using a circuit board, alligator clips, and a USB cable, the device uses closed loop electrical signals to send the computer either a keyboard stroke or mouse click signal. This function allows the Makey Makey to work with any computer program or webpage that will accept a keyboard or mouse click. Given an introduction to the device and how to use it, the student groups were tasked with creating a basic melody on a piano program. AHEC Scholars Chloe Tuaua and Peresia Tupuloa, who are both also in the ASCC Practical Nursing program, guided the participants through their discovery of Makey Makey and explained its growing application within the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) fields, as well as within Healtcare.
The Teen Health Camp had the support of the Department of Education School Lunch Program, who provided the participants with breakfast and lunch. The Pago Pago Trading Company also showed their support by providing beverages.
The AHEC Scholars program is a two-year national program designed to better prepare health profession students for future practice in rural and urban underserved communities. It supplements academic programs that end in a medical certificate or degree. In American Samoa, AHEC Scholars currently include Certified Nurse Aides, Licensed Practical Nurses, Emergency Medical Technicians and Advanced Emergency Medical Technicians. Interested students can apply to become an AHEC Scholar at: https://www.tinyurl.com/684ahecscholars. Anyone interested in learning more about the AHEC Scholars Program and the services AHEC provides in American Samoa can visit their Facebook Page (“American Samoa AHEC”). AHEC can also be reached by phone at 699-2727, and email inquiries can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org.