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First Lady reminds Culinary Academy graduates they have role in fighting diabetes, obesity

First Lady Mary Ann Tulafono has called for everyone in the community to do their part in fighting non communicable diseases, such as diabetes, which has been declared by those in the health profession as epidemic, urging society to eat more healthfully and to exercise.

The First Lady’s public call was made at last Friday’s second graduation ceremony for the American Samoa Culinary Academy and she joins local health officials, non-profit organizations and advocates, who have urged residents to take all necessary action to fight diabetes, as the number of diabetics in American Samoa has reached 6,000 and continues to rise.

In her keynote address the First Lady congratulated the students, who were given a message of encouragement going forward in their new career choice. She also informed graduates that “everyone has a role to play in reducing childhood obesity and protecting our children.”

She recalled a statement made earlier during the ceremony by Evelyn Vaitautolu Langford, director of Human Resources Department, that times are changing and the First Lady agreed, saying that “American Samoa can no longer afford to stand still, whether we like it or not, changes are inevitable... changes for the good... but it’s how we control that.”

“And my true belief, is that the economic challenges that we’re facing demand that we retrain our workforce, learn new skills and add to our tool box,” she said. “In today’s world, we have to know how to become computer literate, operate machinery and — yes — even to prepare a well balanced meal and make it taste delicious.”

“I say to you, don’t be afraid, be courageous, and never stop learning. Make every opportunity a learning experience for you. And if you do not understand something, please ask,” she told the graduates. “The more difficult part of this endeavor starts here — applying your training — because all of this excellent work will be in vain if you do not apply and implement it.”

During her address, the First Lady mentioned more than once the issue of eating healthy and emphasized it further toward the end of her speech, saying that she wanted to share a very important message that she hopes reaches every sector of the community by any means, including KVZK-TV, which aired the graduation program Saturday afternoon.

“It shall be my prayer, that you take this knowledge and skill set and put it to use to serve others by preparing great healthy meals,” she told the graduates. “Train your own families to understand and appreciate the value of good nutritious foods and eating habits.”

And why is this important? she asked. It is because “our people are suffering from high rates of non communicable diseases. So much so, that professionals from the field are declaring diabetes an epidemic.”

She explained that the term “epidemic” used to be reserved for communicable diseases such as dengue fever.

“Now when we talk about an epidemic we are talking about the prevalence of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity,” she said. “All these conditions are directly attributable to our eating habits, the foods that we consume and the lack of physical activity.”

She said it “behooves all of us... individually, and as a community... to improve our knowledge and understanding in order to effectively change our behavior of all these things.”

“You’re now in the forefront,” she told the graduates. “And I ask you... [to] us lead our community to overall health and wellness, using your knowledge skills celebrated today.”