North East Connected

From war torn to wor toon

Luke ArendA public health specialist who has worked in disaster struck and war torn countries all over the world has landed his dream job in Newcastle.

Luke Arend, (43) has started work with Health Watch Newcastle as a project manager. The anthropology and public health graduate will use his academic skills to good use developing surveys and collating results on the public’s views of health and social care in the city.

The role is one he is looking forward to making his mark upon, however; he’s pleased that some of his experiences working under hostile conditions won’t be replicated in the North East.

“My first experience abroad was in India when I was just 16,”he said. “It opened my eyes to what life was like for the majority of people on the planet and urged me to do more to help those less fortunate than myself.”

Indeed he did do more. After university, Luke worked with street children in Colombia before joining Medicins Sans Frontieres, an international medical humanitarian aid agency, providing medical services to victims of armed conflict, epidemics, and other disasters. During his time with the organisation, Luke became country director for India looking after 550 staff working on seven projects. He has also worked in Angola, Sudan, Burma, Kenya and Somalia.

Now that his travelling days are over, Luke has already completed a major piece of work for Health Watch Newcastle gathering views of home care users view in the city.
The survey results came as council budgets are being cut and increasing demands are being placed on social services but as Luke explains, the results overall were very positive.

“Our survey of people in Newcastle has shown that most service users are happy with the quality of care they receive and that it is provided in a dignified and caring way. However, users made it clear that they wanted to see improvements such as having a regular care worker and that the medicine is provided more safely.’’

One thing that delights Luke is the quality of the NHS.

“After working in many countries where there is next to no medical care at all, you realise just how lucky we are to have the high quality free health services here. Not only that, we even have a voice to influence the services we receive as users and I don’t think people realise here that with the recent new obligations on the providers just how much their say can shape what they get.”

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