Nutrition Initiatives to Improve Maternal, Infant, and Young Child Health Outcomes

The IHN has an ongoing relationship with universities and non-governmental organizations working on nutrition research and education in the Republic of Armenia. At the request of Dr. Edgar Housepian, then professor of neurology at Columbia and the head of the medical committee of the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR), faculty of the IHN, Richard Deckelbaum, MD, and Kim Hekimian, PhD, conducted an assessment of child nutrition issues in Armenia in 2011. The findings of the assessment helped programmatic development for FAR which is now implementing initiatives to improve maternal and child nutrition in Berd, the northeast region of Armenia. Baseline data has produced one peer-reviewed journal article and a second manuscript in submission. IHN faculty members Kim Hekimian and Richard Decklebaum are co-authors for these articles and continue to consult with FAR in their ongoing nutrition programs.

In addition, the IHN organized two conferences on nutrition, held at the American University of Armenia in Yerevan, Armenia. The first, "Nutrition as a Key to Economic Development, the Case for Armenia" was held in May 2014. The first conference of its kind ever held in Armenia, it focused on the double burden of nutrition, reviewing the latest in both obesity and undernutrition in children. Curriculum for the conference was developed by IHN faculty, Richard Deckelbaum, Kim Hekimian, and Sharon Akabas. It was co-sponsored by the American University of Armenia, the Fund for Armenian Relief and World Vision, among others.

The second conference, "Nutrition Today Matters Tomorrow" was held in May 2016. This conference reviewed micronutrients of concern in Armenia, focusing on iron, folate, and calcium. Curriculum for the conference was developed by IHN faculty Kim Hekimian, Sharon Akabas, and Richard Deckelbaum in collaboration with John Bilezikian, Chair Emeritus, Department of Endocrinology at CUIMC. In addition, VP&S medical student Nicholas Hutchings presented his MD-MS thesis research on iodine deficiency in Armenia. [photo]

Both conferences were attended by over 450 participants and covered by the national media, including television interviews with IHN faculty. The IHN also consulted with the Minister of Health and the chair of the medical committee in the parliament. IHN has been asked to conduct a national micronutrient survey in Armenia, in collaboration with the American University of Armenia's School of Public Health. Such a survey will be used to determine prevalence and determinants of maternal and child undernutrition. A research proposal has been submitted to various funders for support for the endeavor.

The next conference on childhood nutrition in Armenia is scheduled for 2020.

Piloting Dietary Assessment Software to Determine Micronutrient Sufficiency of Women of Reproductive Age

Key micronutrients including iron and folate are essential in women of reproductive age prior to conception to ensure optimal pregnancy outcomes. Without fortification of staple foods, this is often difficult to achieve through diet alone. At the request of the Armenian Ministry of Health, IHN faculty member, Kim Hekimian, PhD, conducted a pilot study with the aim of assessing whether the ASA 24, a dietary recall software developed by the US National Cancer Institute, is culturally adaptable for measuring the diet of women of reproductive age in Armenia. The data from this research endeavor will be used to suggest future population-based nutrition interventions. Dr. Kim Hekimian is working with colleagues at the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia and the American University of Armenia, School of Public Health, to expand nutrition related research affecting women and children’s health, focusing on infant and young child feeding and dietary patterns of women of reproductive age.

Investigating Predictors of Stunting Among Children 0-5 in Armenia

Through her career, Kim Hekimian, PhD, Assistant Professor of Nutrition at the Institute of Human Nutrition, has focused her research on infant and young child feeding practices in Armenia. Recently as part of her activities at the Columbia IHN, she has collaborated with non-profit organizations in Armenia and researchers at the American University of Armenia to look at prevalence rates and determinants of stunting in rural Armenia. These collaborations have resulted in three peer reviewed journal articles and research is on-going.

Balalian A, Simonyan H, Hekimian K, Deckelbaum R, Sargsyan A. Prevalence and determinants of stunting in a conflict-ridden border region in Armenia-a cross-sectional study. BMC Nutrition, 2018 3 (1), 85.


Kim Hekimian



Areas of Focus

  • Maternal, Child, and Adolescent Health
  • Nutrition