The 2017 Summer Health Academy influences lives of participants

The 2017 Summer Health Academy, headed by the American Samoa Area Health Education Center (ASAHEC), under the American Samoa Community College, was one of the most promising and exciting programs our island had this summer.

According to ASAHEC Program Coordinator Monica Afalava, it not only influenced the lives of the students who participated and the people around them, but it also positively affects the future of healthcare in American Samoa. The Summer Health Academy helped raise awareness about our dire need for more health- care professionals to assist and develop the local health work- force, she noted.

The academy was a 2-week program held July 24 to August 4, Monday to Friday, from 9am- 3pm. The target group was high school juniors and seniors, or students ages 16-18. There were no application, registration, or enrollment fees.

However, students were required to write an essay expressing their interest and/or experience in the health field, and accepted applicants were expected to attend all 10 days of the program.

Fourteen students were accepted into the academy, where they met health professionals from nurses to doctors, psychologists to licensed clinical social workers, and massage therapists to fitness instructors.

They also learned about the importance of nutrition and exercise, because in this field, most people become so busy with taking care of others, they often neglect to take care of themselves.

The students, in addition, engaged in physical activities such as Zumba Fitness and swimming, they learned life-saving skills such as CPR and Self-Defense techniques, and even learned how to spine-board.

Activities in the academy included trips to healthcare facilities including the LBJ Tropical Medical Center, Vet erans Affairs Community Based Outpatient Clinic, and the ASG Department of Veterinary Clinic.

The students were given opportunities to shadow health- care professionals at LBJ, where they experienced and observed things that have opened their eyes. The academy has also allowed them to visit agencies and sites that they’ve never been to before, like the Vaipito Microfiltration Plant in Pago Pago.

ASAHEC Program Coordinator Monica Afalava designed the academy to highlight holistic health: rather than only focusing on illness or specific parts of the body, one should consider the whole person and how she or he interacts with his or her environment.

The students were introduced to mental and emotional health professionals, as well as agencies involved with protecting the environment.

They learned about how the American Samoa Power Authority provides power and water to their homes, and even about how the American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency regulates laws that protect our environment and evidently, our health.

She noted that public health is everyone’ s business, and we all have a part to play in enhancing the lives of our community.

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