03-11-2011 – Nutrition Issues in Armenia: How Can We Improve?

On November 3, 2011, the American University of Armenia (AUA) College of Health Sciences (CHS) organized a public seminar “Nutrition Issues in Armenia: How Can We Improve?” in collaboration with World Vision (WV) Armenia and Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR).

According to the World Health Organization, 7.6 million children 0-5 years old die every year worldwide and over one third of these deaths are linked to malnutrition.  Better nutritional policies and programs can significantly reduce disease and death linked with poor nutrition.

Armenia is experiencing a “double burden” of undernutrition – seen in rates of stunting and wasting – and over nutrition such as obesity.  Both have serious implications for the health of the Armenian population, and the costs to the society.

Dr. Kim Hekimian, CHS/AUA, and Dr. Hambardzum Simonyan, FAR, greeted the seminar participants. Dr. Karine Saribekyan, Ministry of Health, presented the current situation in Armenia in terms of child malnutrition and its consequences for health.  Though many gains have been made in promoting ideal infant nutrition practices such as exclusive breastfeeding, there is still a lot of work to be done.  She presented the latest Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data which shows that children of both rich and poor families alike in Armenia have significant prevalence of under nutrition and over nutrition. Dr. Lena Nanushyan, National Assembly, covered the existing laws and regulations and draft laws about nutrition related issues, including laws that restrict the marketing of infant formula to breastfeeding mothers. Dr. Naira Gharakhanyan, World Vision Armenia, covered the programmatic aspects of nutrition related initiatives and discussed how WV implements nutrition education in the rural communities where they have a presence.

The key note speaker of the evening was Professor Richard Deckelbaum, Director of the Institute of Human Nutrition, Columbia Medical School in New York, whose visit to Armenia is sponsored by FAR.  His presentation was entitled, “The Cost of the Double Burden: Over and Under-Nutrition”  during which he discussed the health and economic consequences of inappropriate nutrition among children and adults. He applauded the progress Armenia has made thus far, and made suggestions for future actions. Presentations were followed by a lengthy question/answer session.

In conclusion of the event Dr. Hekimian stated “It is impressive to learn that Armenia is considering flour fortification with iron and folic acid to address the issues of significant anemia as well as congenital birth defects – this is a step in the right direction when considering appropriate nutritional policies in Armenia.”

Health providers, representatives of local and international nongovernmental and governmental organizations and AUA students, researchers, and faculty attended the public seminar.

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