AUA School of Public Health Starts a Collaborative Project with University of Geneva in Switzerland and St. Anne’s Hospital in Brno, Czech Republic

2 min read

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation together with the Swiss National Science Foundation, through the University of Geneva, awarded the American University of Armenia (AUA) School of Public Health and the St. Anne’s Hospital in Brno, Czech Republic a joint research grant to implement a pilot project on smoking cessation counseling training for medical residents in Armenia and the Czech Republic.  This project was competitively selected within the framework of the “SCOPES – Scientific co-operation between Eastern Europe and Switzerland” 2013-2016 Program.

Smoking is a major public health concern in Eastern Europe, especially in Armenia and the Czech Republic.  More than half of Armenian men are current smokers, which results in excess premature death, disability and suffering from cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer, and related avoidable health care costs. Smoking is on the rise among Czech youth among both boys and girls.  Fighting the tobacco epidemic requires a comprehensive approach that includes policy change, economic measures, public education, and assistance to smokers in their attempts to stop smoking. Tobacco dependence treatment is virtually unavailable in many Eastern European countries largely because of the inadequate training of health professionals on tobacco dependence and smoking cessation. The project is being implemented by an international team led by Prof. Jean-Francois Etter of the University of Geneva. The project will test the feasibility of implementing the Swiss innovative postgraduate program for physicians’ smoking cessation training developed by Drs. Humair and Cornuz. This program has effectively improved both physician counseling skills and patient-related outcomes. It combines various methods of active learning and professional skills acquisition to teach medical residents how to help their patients quit smoking. It has been implemented in Switzerland during the past 15 years.

According to Prof. Etter, “Filling the existing educational gap can have a multiplicative effect because physicians are key opinion leaders and role models for patients and for the general public. Besides, the active learning methods used in this project can be further extended to other healthy lifestyle interventions, such as counseling on diet and physical activity, to lessen the heavy burden of non-communicable diseases in these countries.”

The AUA School of Public Health will be collaborating with the Yerevan State Medical University to bring medical education innovation through the implementation of simulation methods such as “standardized patients” (actors) for the first time in Armenia.  In September, Dr. Narine Movsisyan of the AUA School of Public Health and Dr. Ondrej Sochor of St. Anne’s Hospital traveled to Geneva to meet their Swiss colleagues and observe the training session with “standardized patients” at the Geneva University Hospital. Dr. Movisyan explains: “The training course is based on contemporary approaches in medical education that emphasize acquisition of practical skills. Active learning methods are not yet an integral part of the medical education in Armenia and this project provides a unique opportunity to use innovative methods in medical education in Armenia with the example of a smoking cessation course for medical residents”.

The AUA School of Public Health works actively to improve the health of the populace and health services in Armenia and the region through interdisciplinary education and development of public health professionals and others to be leaders in public health, health services research and evaluation, and health care delivery and management.

Drs. Narine Movsisyan, Ondřej Sochor, Jean-François Etter, and Jean-Paul Humair