Public health education became even more crucial once COVID-19 surfaced in Armenia. As FAR’s largest and most multi-faceted project, the Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program’s (BCPP) community health trainings and seminars have taken on even greater urgency over the past few months than ever before.
Seminars and trainings specifically geared toward mothers are usually held four times a year, and twice in the spring. As soon as the nation’s lockdown began, they were moved online and residents were still able to continue to attend via Viber. Led by local doctors trained through BCPP, topics included advice on how to prevent the spread of the virus, as well as how to identify possible symptoms of COVID-19, which were incredibly useful to local parents.
“We have about 20 physicians now in Berd communities who have become our ‘satellites’ in advocating for changes through mothers’ seminars on healthcare and nutrition,” said Armine Babayan, a social worker at FAR’s Berd Office, who added that about 1,000 mothers have participated since the program’s start.
Most recently, about 40 mothers from Chinchin and Aygedzor communities participated in online group discussions, and their questions were directed to the community doctor. Other topics covered so far this year have included other respiratory diseases and childhood ailments like anemia, rachitis and allergies.
“These are the most common topics that moms want to learn more about,” said Ms. Babayan. “We usually pick the topics based on research and discussions with moms and doctors. Mothers find these in-person meetings very important because, despite the rapid advance of technology and its availability, when a mother can find anything on Google she is more susceptible to being easily manipulated, which is less likely to happen during group meetings with an expert. During these trainings, I’ve personally witnessed how every mom in the group gets a holistic answer to each of her questions.”
This part of FAR’s multi-faceted program has made quite an impact on local communities in the impoverished Berd Region of Tavush Province.
Gayane Klekchyan, 30, a mother of two in Chinchin Village, said that community education initiatives have generally changed the perceptions of many mothers for the better. They have been provided with in-depth knowledge on various topics from breastfeeding tips to infectious diseases among children, hygiene and dental care, nutrition and stunting, and feel more aware about how to safeguard their children, she said.
BCPP, which started in 2013 and is funded by The Mardigian Family Foundation, is a multi-layered approach toward helping one of Armenia’s poorest regions to lift itself out of the endemic cycle of poverty through projects in education, health and economic development, among others. Empowering communities to be more aware of better health and nutrition practices has been a big part of the public health aspect of the project.