Diabetes coalition, DOH team up to walk for health

Miss American Samoa Skyline Nua (left) goes through the procedure of being screened for diabetes by a Department of Health official (right) at Utulei Beach last Friday after the “Act on Diabetes Now” Walk, coordinated by the American Samoa Diabetes Coalition and the Department of Health. The walk, which ended at Utulei Beach, is one of the activities planned for November, which is Diabetes Awareness Month. [photo: FS]

"Eat right, exercise daily and take good care of yourself" was the resounding message at last Friday's Walk for Diabetes, when the more than 100 participants gathered at Utulei Beach after the walk, which attracted a wide range of community members including Miss American Samoa, Skyline Nua and several senior citizens.

The walk is one of the many events being coordinated by the American Samoa Diabetes Coalition and the Health Department to observe November as Diabetes Awareness Month in the territory, whose diabetes population has reached some 6,000.

Dr. Faiese Robie, the Diabetes Coordinator with the Heath Department and Rep. Larry Sanitoa, a member of the Coalition, say they were very pleased with the turnout of Friday's walk despite other activities happening that day, such as the Veterans Day ceremony. They were also thankful that the weather cooperated in the morning.

"It is wonderful that a lot of people came for the walk. They came from all walks of life, too - senior citizens, young ones, and teenagers," Dr. Robie told Samoa News, while some participants were dancing or exercising to sound of the "Macarena" music played from a sound system inside a faleo'o on the beach. "I see some of our diabetes patients participated in the walk."

"The message today is clear - act on diabetes now - increase physical activities, eat healthy meals and continue to see your doctor," said Dr. Robie.

Sanitoa added that "It was great to see senior citizens as well as a lot of young folks. And it's our hope that we are able to get the message out that it's not just about a once a month walk but exercising on a daily basis, eating right and living healthy."

He says there are a number of ways that a person can do their own exercise and not just during these special walks. "You can do it at your home, at work and you don't have to wait until we have something like this in order to exercise," he said. "Our goal is - hopefully by next year - that the number of diabetes patients will have declined. And this can be done by continuing to exercise, eating balanced meals and staying healthy."

The Coalition and the DOH state that there are over 6,000 diabetics in the territory, but Sanitoa and Dr. Robie told Samoa News that these are only "confirmed numbers with the hospital" but the numbers could be higher, as more people get screened.

Several participants also took advantage of the opportunity to be screened for diabetes by Health Department officials at the event.

Among those screened was Miss American Samoa, Skyline Nua, who was a first time participant in the walk. She said that she hopes more residents will come out and take part in future events. "We need your support... and the community needs you to help fight diabetes," Miss American Samoa said and noted that she hopes for the Coalition to have more activities in the future and she stands ready to support the organization.

"Diabetes is serious" she said when asking for the community to come out and support the cause.

Sanitoa told Samoa News that the diabetes program with the Health Department used to get $200,000 a year from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but about five or six years ago, CDC started providing only $50,000 a year for prevention and awareness programs.

"Although the funding level is small, that should not stop everyone from doing their part, which is to exercise and eat balanced meals in order to stay healthy and prevent diabetes," Sanitoa said Saturday.

"We all must do our part in fighting diabetes without having to depend on funding for awareness and prevention programs" he added.


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