If you’re a foodie or a wine enthusiast, you won’t want to miss the 10th Annual Flavors of Tucson. And if you care about the health of fellow Tucsonans, you have even more incentive to put it on your calendar.
“We really want to increase public awareness and decrease the stigma about liver disease. So many people don’t know that there are about 100 different types of liver disease. Liver disease does not discriminate by age, race or financial status,” said Ashley Drew, events manager for the American Liver Foundation Desert Southwest Division, which encompasses Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Utah.
One of 17 divisions nationwide, the Desert Southwest Division serves about 3,000 people a year.
Services include support groups for patients and caregivers; free educational programs and conferences such as the upcoming Liver Educational Conference from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 12 at UAMC; outreach to schools, businesses and other organizations through programs such as Love Your Liver and Liver Matters; and resources for patients with liver disease ranging from advocacy and information to financial assistance with medication and other needs.
Additionally, since 1979 the American Liver Foundation has partnered with the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases to fund $24 million nationwide in research dedicated to the treatment and cure of liver disease.
The foundation also promotes organ donation. In Arizona, the Desert Southwest Division works with Donate Life Arizona at https://www.azdonorregistry.org/ and http://www.dnaz.org/Home.aspx in hopes of spreading awareness about the need for life-saving liver transplants.
Sarah Yost, a UAMC clinical pharmacist in abdominal transplant and board member for the Liver Foundation, said approximately 100 abdominal transplants involving livers, kidneys or pancreases were performed last year at UAMC.
Yost is a strong proponent of Liver Foundation community outreach and education, particularly since many people are unaware of the prevalence of liver disease.
Statistics from the American Liver Foundation indicate that one in 10 — or more than 30 million — Americans have liver disease. Up to 25 percent of Americans may have nonalcoholic, fatty liver disease.
“The number of people that have liver diseases is increasing. Everyone who is interested in their health and ways to improve and increase quality and length of life needs to look at the whole body and the whole person, and the liver is part of that,” Yost said.
Flavors of Tucson offers a memorable opportunity to spread the message about liver health and wellness, Yost said.
“This is a very fun event if you are a foodie and enjoy the wonderful restaurants we have in Tucson. We have top chefs from all different restaurants making five-course meals tableside, and it is very intimate,” she said.
“It is also a great event in terms of blending the health-care community with local businesses and the public, and you couldn’t have a more beautiful location.”
Yost is grateful not only to the talented chefs but to the 40-plus volunteers led by Christina Stucki who help make the event possible. Stucki has helped with the fundraiser almost since its inception and has watched it grow.
“So many people who volunteer have been touched by the organization’s mission,” Stucki said.
“One couple whose daughter had a liver transplant volunteers every year, and there are so many who talk about how much the Liver Foundation has helped them and how comforting it is to know they are there to provide support and resources.”