AUA and UCLA Launch The Community Wellbeing Project in Armenia to Support Artsakh Population

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YEREVAN, Armenia — In response to the mass forced displacement of Nagorno-Karabakh’s entire population in September 2023 and the resulting humanitarian crisis, the American University of Armenia (AUA) Turpanjian College of Health Sciences (CHS) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Fielding School of Public Health (FSPH) joined forces and launched The Community Wellbeing Project to address the immediate and long-term health and social needs of the forcibly displaced.

The Community Wellbeing Project, co-led by CHS Dean and Director of the Zvart Avedisian Ohanian Center for Health Services Research and Development Dr. Varduhi Petrosyan and Associate Dean for Public Health Practice at UCLA FSPH Dr. Alina Dorian, is a novel grassroots initiative aimed at improving the overall wellbeing of the Nagorno-Karabakh population currently residing in the Republic of Armenia. The Project is funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, with matching funds through a donation made to UCLA FSPH. The initiative builds community capacity, links individuals and communities to resources, and promotes education and outreach in order to support and empower Artsakh population.

As part of this initiative, the project team designed and implemented the “Community Wellbeing: Strategies and Frameworks for Engagement” training program, convening dozens of community advocates from Artsakh, as well as representatives of community organizations and local government bodies, to widen their perspectives on community wellbeing and enhance their skills for authentic community engagement and supporting Artsakh population.

The training presented a holistic approach to defining and improving community wellbeing, focusing on community engagement and mobilization. A wide range of topics were covered, including the community wellbeing framework, community organizing and engagement, legal aspects of forced displacement, social determinants of health, effective communication, health promotion and education, and trauma-informed programming. The project team engaged local and international experts from Armenia and the United States in the development of the training curricula and implementation of the training, including presentations by faculty and subject matter experts from AUA, UCLA, and World Vision.

CWW Training Team_with title

Various interactive activities and active learning methodologies were implemented throughout the sessions, including group role-plays, problem-solving tasks, case studies, and other relevant exercises. Activities were designed to integrate training techniques with individual lived experiences and to model pedagogical methodologies that foster effective learning, engagement, and collaboration.

As The Community Wellbeing Project launched in the town of Masis in the Ararat province of Armenia in December 2023, the initiative will continue to engage community stakeholders, identifying both community needs and assets to build social cohesion and community resilience. Through building community capacity and strengthening existing systems and community structures, the Project will promote self-reliance, reduce health and social disparities and inequities, and improve overall community wellbeing.

The AUA Turpanjian College of Health Sciences works actively to improve population health and health services in Armenia and the region through interdisciplinary education and development of health professionals to be leaders in public health, nursing, health services research and evaluation, and health care delivery and management.