By Andy Beckingham
This is the first blog post from an ex-DPH and Public Health Consultant now living and working in India.
I found it really hard to get from UK work to international work and encountered some obstacles. People said there was no way to do it unless I volunteered with VSO for at least two years. (Yeah right – and who’s gonna pay my mortgage while I do that, then?)
But here I am and the Faculty thought it might help others who might want to do the same if I blog my experiences. I will document my frustrations and confess when I feel lonely or inept. As I narrowly avoid getting run over, lost, or homesick, I will share it online. As I try to do good quality effective public health work, fail miserably, and sob pitifully into the night, you will be able to snigger thoughtlessly. If I share my delight at working here, along with my frustration at having no cause of death data to rely on, and how hard it is to look cool eating yogurt with my fingers, you might be inspired to pack a case and do some communicable disease work in Bangalore. But hopefully you’ll avoid my mistakes.
I’ve already been here a month. There are hassles, but it’s fab.
I’d worked for years in UK public health, from junior tea boy right up to DPH with my own posh office and a big team. But I wanted to work in PH in a developing country and I found it incredibly hard to find a way. As a DPH you get used to pulling strings. Ah, the power… But I couldn’t find the right ones to pull to be able to use my PH experience abroad. Figuring that if a DPH found it hard to get experience of international PH, so would others, the Faculty agreed I could tell all right here on this blog.
Many of you will have done gap years and volunteered in Rajasthan. Others will have done an obstetrics placement in Delhi or a surgical six months in Chennai. I never did anything like that. My earlier decades were spent changing nappies and trying to combine working in the insane NHS with getting to the playgroup in to pick my son up in time, and being broke. Now my kids have grown up and I am free to fly business class to hot places and fall prey to tropical diseases. So if you are 25 and carefree and well used to volunteering in Venezuela then these blogs won’t be of interest. If, however, you have made a career in public health in the UK, but never lived in a low-income or developing country, and can’t work out if you’d love it or hate it, then keep tuning in and I’ll keep telling it like it is.