To: Samoa Observer
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Peace Corps and National Health Services lead health seminars
Seven villages in rural Savaii are moving toward healthier lifestyles. Savaii Peace Corps Volunteers and nurses of the National Health Services (NHS) conducted Diabetes, Hypertension, and Obesity Awareness Seminars in the vilages of Tufutafoe, Falealupo, Samauga, Safotu, Fatuvalu, Sili and Iva throughout the month of June.
“Many thanks to the Peace Corps volunteer group for their contribution to our Diabetes, Hypertension, and Obesity Awareness Seminars in the community for the last three weeks. Without their support, many people wouldn’t be aware of how these diseases affect their health in their daily lives,” said Fa’avaoa Gaono Taulapapa, Clinical Nurse Consultant at Safotu District Hospital.
The program included a one-act play, an educational and interactive seminar, led by Peace Corps volunteer Jim Metz and NHS nurses, on the topic of healthful living. Particularly, the talks focused on causes and consequences of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and practical tips on weight loss and leading an overall healthy lifestyle.
“Our message has been that there is a strong correlation between obesity and diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. The more weight a person has, the more likely they are to have one or more of such diseases,” Metz said.
“We used several methods to convey this message, such as: an entertaining skit, weight-adding demonstrations, group discussions, and we have encouraged participants to compete in a weight loss contest over the next eight weeks,” Metz added.
The seminars concluded with diabetes and hypertension screenings by the NHS nurses, and body-mass index (BMI) calculations by PCVs. Seminar participants were each given an index card with their height and weight and their weight goal for eight weeks from the day of the screening. Participants who reached their weight goal by the end of eight weeks will receive a prize.
Over 300 people participated in the seminars, plus the school bodies of Tufutafoe and Sili Primary Schools.
The Peace Corps – NHS partnership began in June 2009 as a coordinated effort to reduce obesity levels and related noncommunicable diseases and to promote NHS health programs in rural Savaii. Nick Shuraleff, Ph.D., a Peace Corps volunteer based in Iva (2007—2009) and Naifoua Asiata, Principle Head Nurse in Savaii, initiated the partnership that has developed programs such as the recent health seminars.
Shuraleff worked with community nurses in organizing diabetes and hypertension screenings for villages throughout Savaii, as well as a health fair at the Salelologa Market in June 2009.
Shuraleff also secured funding from the New Zealand High Commission to purchase 12 bathroom scales, which were distributed to Savaii villages that had a Peace Corps volunteer. The scales were then presented to village groups such as women’s committees and schools for the purpose of monitoring weight.
During the course of last month’s seminar tour, villages that did not previously receive a scale, were presented with one at the end of the seminar. Participating communities also received Samoan-language health awareness posters from NHS.
Several of the volunteers who worked with Shuraleff have continued the work he began. Metz contacted doctors and suppliers in the United States and had blood pressure meters and sphygmomanometers donated to hospitals in Savaii.
Laura Hanks, a volunteer based in Tafatafa (2006—2008), donated funds raised in her home state of Virginia. Those funds were used to purchase glucose meters and strips that were also given to local hospitals and used for the health seminar screenings.
“We greatly appreciate their help in obtaining testing equipment which is very expensive and in short supply,” said Ms. Taulapapa of Safotu District Hospital.
Metz stressed the importance of the cooperation of PCVs with NHS nurses.
“Thanks to the partnership between Peace Corps and nurses from the NHS, we were able to provide people with information that will help them make better choices about their diet and exercise,” Metz said
“I want to extend my deepest thanks to the National Health Service, especially to the field nurses in Savaii who joined us on this mission. They do this kind of work everyday and are to be commended for their perseverance,” Metz added.