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Professor Michael Baker, Department of Public Health


Michael Baker image 2020

Professor of Public Health; Director, Health Environment Infection Research Unit (HEIRU); Co-Director, He Kainga Oranga/Housing and Health Research Programme; Co-Director, Public Health Summer School

Teaches PUBH734 Health Protection

Contact details

Tel +64 4 918 6802
Fax +64 4 389 5319

Research interests and activities 

Michael is a public health physician and Professor in the Department of Public Health. He is passionate about opportunities to organise society in ways that promote health, equity and sustainability.

In 2013 Michael was awarded the Liley Medal (Health Research Council) for his contribution to the health and medical sciences. In 2014 he was a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Science Prize as a member of He Kainga Oranga / Housing and Health Research Programme. In 2015 he was the NZ-UK Link Foundation Visiting Professor at the School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London.

His work during 2020-21 has been dominated by assisting with the Covid-19 pandemic response. Michael is a member of the Ministry of Health’s Covid-19 Technical Advisory Group and has been a leading architect and advocate for the Covid-19 elimination strategy. He established a programme of research on the epidemiology, prevention and control of Covid-19 in NZ and internationally (Co-Search), which has generated a large amount of published research and commentary aimed at improving the pandemic response.

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.

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

  • infectious disease epidemiology
  • The COVID‑19 pandemic, including epidemiology, elimination strategy, control measures
  • emerging infectious diseases, including pandemic influenza
  • food safety and enteric diseases, e.g. campylobacteriosis
  • zoonoses and One Health
  • immunisation and vaccine preventable diseases
  • health effects of household crowding, healthy housing
  • rheumatic fever, skin infections, chronic effects of infectious diseases
  • seasonality of disease, health effects of climate change, e.g. on infectious diseases
  • environmental health, drinking water quality, water pollutants, e.g. nitrates
  • drug law reform and harm minimisation, e.g. needle exchange programme
  • public health services organisation and capacity, e.g. surveillance and outbreak investigation
  • global health security, e.g. the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005)
  • science communication

Michael has worked in a range of roles, including being a medical advisor to a Minister of Health, for regional public health services, at a Crown Research Institute (ESR), and for the World Health Organisation in Manila and Geneva. Since 2003 he has been based full-time at the University of Otago, Wellington. Specific positions include: