AAHPO Holds Family Style Get-Together

AAHPO Holds Family Style Get-Together
by Florence Avakian

November 15, 2012

By Florence Avakian

NEW YORK – On Friday evening, Oct. 12, more than 65 members of the
Armenian American Health Professional Organization (AAHPO) held a
family style get-together at the new Byblos restaurant in New York to
renew friendships, provide the latest information on the progress of
the group, and meet new members and aid them in their quest for
positions. In addition to medical doctors, pharmacists, nutritionists,
nurses, and dentists, engineers, lawyers, and businessmen also
attended to support the cause.

Founded in 1994, the AAHPO represents more than 450 healthcare
professionals of every stripe. It not only provides information and
help for thousands of Armenians in the U.S., but has expanded its
program, conducting its first medical mission to Armenia in 2011, when
15 volunteers visited various clinics and treated patients.

On Oct. 12, the dynamic president of AAHPO for the last three years,
Dr. Larry Najarian, welcomed the crowd in his typically enthusiastic
manner, and reviewed the recent highlights of the organization. Dr.
Khoren Nalbandian, a founder of AAHPO, emphasized that `one of the
missions of the organization is its networking program,’ which has
been responsible for helping thousands of Armenians with their medical
needs, and for assisting a number of interns and residents find
medical positions. `Never underestimate the power of our individual
skills,’ he said, adding, `We’ve trained 60 physicians, have taught
thousands, and are reaching tens of thousands of people.’

Dr. Raffyi Hovanessian, who has been on medical missions to Armenia 27
times, in his decisive manner took center stage. `Our mission is to
improve health care awareness, and to help our brethren in Armenia,’
he announced. Dr. Arthur Kubikian and Dr. Aram Cazazian reiterated
this message by emphasizing that AAHPO’s primary mission is to
`disseminate our knowledge with the public, through different
technologies, including television.’

In a warm atmosphere, the event started off with all present
introducing themselves and describing their area of expertise. It
became apparent that there was a large contingent of doctors from

Dangerous situation

Dr. Kim Hekimian has worked with the American University of Armenia
(AUA) for several years, concentrating her work on improving public
health in Armenia, with a focus on infant nutrition and tobacco
control. The nutritional status in Armenia of children up to age five
is `chronic malnutrition which, when measured as short height for age,
is called stunting,’ Hekimian revealed. `There is also the problem of
obesity, diabetes, and non-communicable diseases, which is
overwhelming the Armenian population. Non-communicable diseases
account for 90 percent of all deaths in Armenia.’

Smoking is one of the most severe public health problems in Armenia
today, Hekimian continued, with 63 percent of males, and 2 percent of
females as self-identified smokers; the latter figure, she pointed
out, is not entirely accurate, as women do not readily admit to this
vice. In the general adult population, she noted that `50 percent have
high blood pressure, 56 percent are overweight, and 24 percent are
obese.’ And there is also the problem of `over nutrition’ – eating the
wrong foods that bring on disease. With the increase in poverty, an
educational program is sorely needed. Lacking is a public awareness
program. In addition, very few graduates of the AUA go into public
health,’ she said, painting a depressing scenario.

Tobacco epidemic

Dr. Arusyak Haroutyunyian, through a video presentation, concentrated
her talk on the `tobacco epidemic’ that is driven by the Armenian
tobacco industry. `Tobacco is very cheap and is everywhere. Smokers
can lose 17 years of their life due to this vice,’ she pointed out. In
Armenia, 22 percent of all deaths are attributable to smoking. In
addition, there is the problem of second-hand smoke affecting
children. Fifty-four percent of households have at least one family
member who smokes.

Armenia is 1 of 40 countries to have signed an international framework
on tobacco control, Haroutyunyian said. In 2004, the Armenian
Parliament passed the National Tobacco Control Law. She stressed that
there should be no smoking in hospitals and universities, and
currently there is no restriction on smoking in restaurants, bars, and
on public transportation. The major causes of death in Armenia are
heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Youth involvement

But all the news is not negative. Over the last 10 years, there has
been some progress with an advocacy campaign, and the first conference
on `Tobacco Health’ was held in 2010. But the best achievement was the
involvement of the youth who are now actively involved in collecting
cigarette butts in the parks. `We have to work with the youth, and the
leadership of the country,’ said Haroutyunyian with great emphasis.

The warm atmosphere of the evening continued long after the
presentations, as members, some of whom had traveled from other
states, enjoyed networking and catching up.

From: A. Papazian


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