Executive Director, National Tongan American Society
Fahina serves as executive director of the National Tongan American Society (NTAS), which works to create and maintain health education programs, health management, and resources in an effort to decrease health disparities among the Tongan American community. Its services are available to all Pacific Islanders, their families, and their friends. In addition, it seeks to encourage the Tongan “‘ofa faka-kāinga” (extended-family love and care) that crosses ethnicity, national origins, gender, and religious boundaries. NTAS advances shared use as a strategy to increase physical activity in the Tongan community.
In 2013, NTAS received a grant from the Asian and Pacific Islander Health Forum to focus on Tongan American health in Utah, where 25 percent of all Tongan Americans live. As part of this work, the NTAS formed a health coalition, identified locations to target, and worked with local leaders to brainstorm solutions. Their work led them to the concept of shared use. As a strategy that makes use of existing facilities, shared use seemed like a cost-effective way to create opportunities for physical activity. NTAS conducted surveys of the community, which revealed that Tongans of every age were less physically active than the average Utahan of the same age. Respondents also reported two key reasons they were not physically active: They did not have exercise equipment, and they preferred to exercise with other people, but there were few group activity options. Armed with this new data and information, NTAS made it a priority to enable and encourage physical activity by making private and public playgrounds, gyms, and facilities available for community use. Now, Tongans in the Salt Lake City region are getting physical activity and having fun.