The American Samoa Area Health Education Center visiting party to Aunuu gathers at the wharf in Auasi. Pictured left to right are: Doris Bahunsua, Mekeli Tia, Sailitafa Samoa, Tala Ueligitone, Pauline Auvaa, Charles Egesdal and Marquita Granda. (Courtesy Photo)

Members of the American Samoa Area Health Education Center visiting party to Aunuu relax on the beach following their work. Seen here left to right are Matauitafa Faiai, Mekeli Tia, Pauline Auvaa, Doris Bahunsua, Tanya Mapu, Marquita Granda. Behind: Charles Egesdal and Michael J. Sword-Curry. (Courtesy Photo)

ASCC-ASAHEC Conducts Outreach on Aunuu

July 7, 2014

By James Kneubuhl, ASCC Press Officer

The American Samoa Area Health Education Center (ASAHEC), hosted by the American Samoa Community College (ASCC), conducted an outreach visit to Aunuu in late June as part of their mission to increase health care professionals in rural and underserved areas, identify health education needs, increase health awareness and support the local healthcare workforce. “Our trip to Aunuu gave our students a chance to experience healthcare settings in rural areas and experience being part of a team that delivers it,” said ASAHEC Director Ms. Sailitafa Samoa.

The ASAHEC group who made the trip consisted of Ms. Samoa and participants at different levels in their healthcare training. Some are taking prerequisite courses, two will be starting in a nursing program soon, one is in a medical program, and another has recently finished her advanced nursing program. Samoa and ASCC students: Pauline Auva’a, Doris Bahunsua, MJ Sword-Curry, Tanya Mapu, Mekeli Tia and Kimberly Ueligitone were joined by Mata’uitafa Faiai, a third year biology student with Chaminade University; Marquita Granda, who has completed her studies at UH Manoa to become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse/ Family Nurse Practitioner; and Charles Egesdal, currently a student of the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii.

“Our main goal was to have the residents understand how to make better choices and help prevent illness.,” explained Ms. Samoa. For this purpose, the visiting ASAHEC team set up four different stations. The first was for registration of adults and weight measurement, the second for recording their height, the third for taking their blood pressure, and the fourth to measure their waist circumference and health education one on one. Ms. Samoa, who is a Registered Nurse, provided the health education along with Marquita Granda and Charles Egesdal. Tanya Mapu assisted them by translating when needed. Mata’uitafa Faiai and Doris Bahunsua, led the team through games for the island’s children, alternating with information on 12 healthy habits for them to practice daily.

Ms. Samoa described as “very positive” the overall response from the Aunuu community to the morning’s activities. “They were receptive and ready to learn and the children had a great time also,” she said. The ASAHEC Director also noted that Aunuu offers an opportunity for further development in health services and health education. “In order to prevent more chronic conditions so prevalent in American Samoa, ASAHEC would like to collaborate with the existing Department of Health and Social Services programs to deliver care and screening to Aunuu residents and then track them periodically to determine the effectiveness of the health education and whether their needs are being met,” Ms. Samoa reflected. “There is currently no center or health facility on Aunu’u. Some of the residents are requesting one, and it would empower the people in Aunu’u tremendously. This could be an opportunity to develop future healthcare occupations. Support is also needed for the caregivers of the elderly and residents of all ages with chronic conditions.”

For visiting Advanced Practice Registered Nurse/ Family Nurse Practitioner Marquita Granda, the visit highlighted the contrast between the traditional versus the modern lifestyle of our island. “It seemed that the people of Aunuu were in some ways healthier than the general population on Tutuila,” she observed. “I think it can be attributed to their being a more agricultural-based community. They exercise frequently, eat food from the land, and have limited access to fast food. However, there continues to be a great need for improved access to care, disease prevention, and health promotion.”

For more information on the American Samoa Area Health Education Center, visit their website at: