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Michael Baker image (2023)MBChB, FNZCPHM, FAFPHM, FRACMA, DComH, DObst Professor of Public Health; Director, Health Environment Infection Research Unit (HEIRU); Director, Public Health Communication Centre; Co-Director, He Kainga Oranga/Housing and Health Research Programme; Co-Director, Public Health Summer School

Teaches PUBH734 Health Protection

Contact details

Tel +64 4 832 3214
Fax +64 4 389 5319

Research interests and activities  

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

Michael has been a full-time staff member at the University of Otago since 2003. In 2015 he was the NZ-UK Link Foundation Visiting Professor at the School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London. And in 2023 he was a visiting Fellow at the Norwegian Centre for Advanced Study (CAS).

His work during 2020-22 was 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 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
  • COVID‑19, 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)

Michael has a strong interest in science communication. In 2023 he launched the Public Health Communications Centre where he is its inaugural director.

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. His current  positions include:


Michael has received a number of awards for his work on public health and science communication, including:

  • 2022 Royal Society Callaghan Medal for an outstanding contribution to science and/or technology communication
  • 2021 Royal Society Rutherford Medal: Impact of housing on health as part of He Kāinga Oranga/Housing and Health Research Programme
  • 2021 NZ Association of Scientists Cranwell Medal for excellence in communicating science to the general public
  • 2021  Ann Dysart Distinguished Service Award from NZ Federation of Multicultural Councils  for exemplary services
  • 2021 Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for services to public health science
  • 2020 Prime Minister's Science Communication Prize
  • 2020 Wellingtonian of the Year Award and winner of the Science and Technology category for his work on informing the Covid-19 response
  • 2020 Critic and Conscience of Society Award, from Universities New Zealand, for contributions to public health in New Zealand
  • 2020 Public Health Champion Award, from the Public Health Association, for contributions to public health in New Zealand
  • 2019 Shortland Medal, from the NZ Association of Scientists, joint award for work to establish the SHIVERS (Southern Hemisphere Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Research & Surveillance) project
  • 2014 Prime Minister's Science Prize as a member of He Kainga Oranga/ Housing and Health Research Programme
  • 2013 Liley Medal from the Health Research Council of New Zealand for contribution to the health and medical sciences.


Turner, N., Dwight, E., McIntyre, P., Young, A., Best, E., David, M., … Baker, M. (2024). Increasing whooping cough cases put pēpi at risk. What can be done about it? The Briefing, (23 July). Retrieved from Journal - Research Other

Baker, M., & Gillespie, A. (2024). Despite improved WHO regulations, the world remains ill-prepared for the next pandemic. The Briefing, (14 June). Retrieved from Journal - Research Other

Pourzand, F., Prickett, M., Baker, M., & Hales, S. (2024). Clean ups are not enough: Government policy incoherent on climate change. The Briefing, (10 July). Retrieved from Journal - Research Other

Knott, A., Taiuru, K., Whittaker, R., Kerr, J., & Baker, M. (2024). Has the time come for a register of AI systems used by government agencies? The Briefing, (27 June). Retrieved from Journal - Research Other

Sharma, S., Davies, C., Rattray‑Te Mana, H., Baker, M., Kvalsvig, A., & Walton, M. (2024). Supporting whānau during COVID-19 pandemic in Aotearoa New Zealand: A systems thinking case study. BMC Health Services Research, 24, 717. doi: 10.1186/s12913-024-11164-z Journal - Research Article

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