This important program is directed towards teaching the youth in Armenia and Artsakh (Nagorno Karabagh) the devastating effects of tobacco, alcohol, drug abuse and sexually transmitted diseases. It is a recognized fact that in the former Soviet Union excessive per capita consumption of alcohol and tobacco is widespread. It is also true that healthy food selection and proper diet were seldom considered to be a health issue as in western countries. Unfortunately, these trends are predominant even today in every one of the Newly Independent States of the Soviet Union.
ARPA members who had visited Armenia and other NIS countries have witnessed the seriousness of this reality. To try to partially remedy the situation, or at least to create an awareness of its consequences, ARPA has conceived and implemented the Health Education and Lifestyle Program (HELP). This program can be introduced in all other NIS countries by simply translating the textbook to the desired language and arranging the logistics for teaching the course.
The HELP Project is carried out by teaching weekly, one-hour classes to junior high school students. A textbook was written, translated into Armenian and printed in Armenia with beautiful colored pictures and illustrations in 1998 and a new edition in 2003. The printing costs were partly covered by a generous grant from the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA). The English textbook was prepared by Hrayr Karaguezian, Ph.D.,
Professor of Medicine at UCLA School of Medicine. The new re-edited version is enhanced with additional chapters and educational materials. The teachers are subsidized for their efforts since HELP is not part of the official school curriculum. The funding for the subsidies of the teachers, coordinator and the day-to-day activities are donated by our members and through fundraising from the general public.
Over 20,000 students from the seventh and eighth grades have enrolled in this course since 1998, in 61 schools in Armenia and in 21 schools in Artsakh. The Executive Director of ARPA in Armenia and the technical lead in health related activities is Dr. Madeleine Tashjian. The text books are distributed to the students free of charge. This is the first such program of its kind in the former Soviet countries. ARPA, the officials in the Ministry of Education & Science of Armenia, as well as the principals of the schools involved, are all very enthusiastic about the affects of the course on students.
Dr. Hagop Panossian, President of ARPA, visited the Ministry of Education and Science of Armenia and met with the Minister and deputy Ministers in the summers of 2004 and 2006. Feedback towards the work of ARPA in Armenia is positive. Partly due to the success of the HELP project, the Government has started their own version of HELP as a pilot program. The plan is to expand the program to all the schools of Armenia. This is great news, since ARPA had this objective in mind when HELP was initiated. Moreover, the public awareness towards the health risks in smoking has substantially increased and the Government of Armenia is now funding numerous “Publicity Campaigns” against smoking, substance abuse and the like. ARPA continues to work in this area and has written proposals to finance this type of important campaign.