Dr Michael Baker

Michael Baker is a Public Health Medicine Specialist and Professor in the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago, Wellington. He is passionate about opportunities to organise society in ways that promote health, equity and sustainability.

Michael has a wide range of public health research interests, with a focus on infectious diseases, environmental health, and improving housing conditions.

His work during 2020-21 has been dominated by assisting with the New Zealand Covid-19 pandemic response. Michael is a member of the Ministry of Health’s Covid-19 Technical Advisory Group and has been the leading advocate for the Covid-19 elimination strategy. He established a programme of research on the epidemiology, prevention and control of Covid-19 (Co-Search) with support from the Health Research Council (HRC) and has published widely on this subject.

His wider research includes an HRC Programme researching the relationship between infectious diseases, long-term conditions, and social determinants (The Symbiotic Programme). He is also leading HRC funded research to identify causes of rheumatic fever and improved ways to prevent this disease.

Michael has a strong interest in science communication and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Science Media Centre. He has worked internationally with the World Health Organisation (WHO) on a range of global health projects including helping to establish the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) and disease elimination and eradication efforts.

Michael’s work on public health, and the Covid-19 response in particular, was recognised by a number of recent awards including: the Critic and Conscience of Society Award (from Universities NZ), the Public Health Champion award (from the Public Health Association of NZ), being made a Member of the NZ Order of Merit (MNZM), his selection as the 2020 Wellingtonian of the Year, and the Prime Minister’s Science Communication Prize in 2021.