Breastfeeding in Armenia: Successes and Challenges

October 3, 2008 – The College of Health Sciences (CHS) at the American University of Armenia (AUA) organized a panel discussion “Breastfeeding in Armenia: Successes and Challenges” as a part of its Public Health Seminar Series.

The panel included Dr. Kim Arzoumanian, Visiting Assistant Professor, AUA; Dr. Karmela Poghosyan, Baby Friendly Hospital and Baby Friendly Policlinic Initiative Program Coordinator, Ministry of Health (MOH) of Armenia; and Dr. Susanna Harutyunyan, President, “Confidence” Health NGO, Lecturer, Department of Pediatrics, YSMU.

Dr. Arzoumanian presented the overview of breastfeeding (BF) promotion activities in Armenia in 1993-1997. She discussed the remarkable improvements in infant feeding practices after the implementation of the National Breastfeeding Promotion campaign.

Dr. Karmela Poghosyan introduced the current rates of BF in Armenia, emphasizing the impact of implemented BF promotion programs. She also presented the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative and the Baby Friendly Policlinic Initiative, which were aimed at provision of continuity in proper infant feeding practices. She pointed out the main problems in the sphere of infant and young child nutrition in the country and discussed future programs.

Dr. Susanna Harutyunyan presented about implementation of WHO International Code on Breastmilk Substitutes and the Armenian Law on Advertisement in Armenia and the results of monitoring by “Confidence” Health NGO. She mentioned the difficulties that the NGO encounters in their efforts to pass the new, comprehensive national law for controlling marketing and sale of breast milk substitutes. Dr. Harutyunyan brought a number of examples demonstrating violations of the WHO International Code on Breastmilk Substitutes and the Armenian Law on Advertisement.

Presentations were followed by an active discussion during the question/answer session. Dr. Narine Movsisyan, who is in charge of Tobacco Control Programs at the Center for Health Services Research and Development (CHSR), AUA, discussed similar challenges in the process of development of Tobacco Control legislation and emphasized that sharing CHSR experience might help with promoting the draft legislation on breast milk substitutes.

During the discussion representatives of Project NOVA, the Primary Health Care Reform project, and World Vision Armenia briefly presented their activities in the area of infant feeding in Armenia. Seminar attendees included health NGOs, AUA alumni, students, and faculty, and the general public.