Fighting Lymphatic Filariasis: HPC Fellow Lynette Suiaunoa-Scanlan

Lynette Suiaunoa-Scanlan is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow working with The Task Force for Global Health. At The Task Force, Lynette worked on a community-based post Lymphatic Filariasis mass drug administration Coverage Survey in American Samoa. Read on to learn about her time as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow.

I first learned about Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program from a colleague who recommended me to the Task Force for Global Health. Instinctively, I applied without knowing what the position fully entailed. I was a recent MPH graduate who deeply desired an opportunity to exercise my newly acquired knowledge and set of skills. Upon receiving the great news, I humbly accepted the opportunity and immediately got involved. I was thrilled to be a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow in American Samoa “my home” after being away for so many years.

As a Fellow, I was assigned to assist the US Centers for Disease Control’s Center for Global Health (CDCCGH) and the Pacific Island Health Officers Association (PIHOA) to conduct a community-based post Lymphatic Filariasis mass drug administration (LF MDA) Coverage Survey in American Samoa. This coverage survey is a component of American Samoa Department of Health’s (ASDOH) Lymphatic Filariasis Prevention and Elimination Program, and in adherence to the World Health Organization’s Global Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis (LF) Strategy.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), American Samoa is the only area in the United States where LF is endemic. Surveys for LF conducted in 1999 demonstrated that American Samoa had some of the highest infection levels in the Pacific Region (Coutts et al., 2017). Despite the efforts to control and eliminate the disease from 2000-2015, results from a survey conducted in 2016 indicated widespread transmission across the territory (Sheel et al., 2018). There are recent actions to accomplish elimination and there is evidence that early treatment can reverse clinical impact. And because of this the government of American Samoa strengthened an obligation to eliminate LF in American Samoa by 2024.

During the coverage survey, I assisted as a supervisor/consultant for one of three teams. The survey consisted of 3 full days of training and 13 full days of field work.The field work was my favorite part of the fellowship. We went out to the randomly selected villages and utilized coverage survey sampling to identify households for inclusion in coverage interviews. The interviews were implemented primarily by asking consent approval, if yes, a brief questionnaire about the LF campaign and MDA would follow.

The team also stumbled upon challenges. Some challenges we had no control over such as the weather, this would often push us back. With perseverance and a deadline to meet the challenges and barriers in the end, transparency mended. Nonetheless, it was heartwarming to see the efforts of the collaboration of the American Samoa Department of Health, CDC and PIHOA flourish through the knowledge the citizens knew about lymphatic filariasis. This gave an optimistic sense of direction (at least for me) for the future endeavor of eliminating this silent parasitic disease.    

Although it was a time sensitive project and eventually came to an end, I was most enthusiastic about the opportunity to be a part of something meaningful that cultivated the general health of the people of American Samoa. As little or big as my role was, I was able to genuinely contribute my time and knowledge to work towards the continuous efforts to eliminate LF in American Samoa. My experience as a Fellow was very rewarding. I was given an opportunity to work with a wonderful team, and I’m forever grateful for the mentorship throughout the project.

Special thank you to the Task Force for Global Health and Hilton Prize Coalition for the once in a lifetime opportunity. This opportunity in it’s short time opened new doors for me to continue working in a field that I am passionate about.

(Photos courtesy of The Task Force for Global Health. Image features TFGH team that  traveled to Tau, Manu’a during the coverage survey)

About The Hilton Prize Coalition

The Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through its signature Fellows Program, the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat, Global Impact. 

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit
prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact  prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow  the Hilton Prize Coalition on  Twitter and  LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.


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