Professor Michael Baker MBChB, FNZCPHM, FAFPHM, FRACMA, DComH, DObst
Professor of Public Health, Otago University
Michael is a public health physician and Professor in the Department of Public Health (1) (2)
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. (1)
On his career
Baker is another career and academic doctor, who instead of working and gaining experience at the front lines, started his career as a medical advisor for the Minister of Health (1).
He was appointed to the faculty at the University of Otago in 1997, rising to the rank of professor in the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago, Wellington in 2013.
In April 2020, Baker stated that New Zealand had the “most decisive and strongest lockdown in the world at the moment” and “that it is the only Western country where the goal is to eliminate COVID-19“.
This indicates he is unrealistic, thinking New Zealand’s physical isolation was enough to hold off the inevitable, and believing that the promises made by the vaccine manufacturers would come true.
History will ultimately judge Baker, but I doubt it wll be kind.
Public health should be based more on dreaming of vague promises from drug companies with dodgy records for misleading marketing. There is far more to it, and it seems the ivory tower thinking is more dangerous than the pandemic itself.
As late as September 2021 Baker was still plugging the “elimination strategy”, and warning of dire consequences should it fail.
Well as of mind-November 2021 it has failed, the country has cases but no deaths. I wonder why?
Baker, for all his academic post nominums and awards has failed to realise that there are only so many people who will be affected by Covid-19. The same cohort that are, or were, in line to be affected by seasonal influenza. The only difference being that the increasesd infectiousness (the ability to be passed on easier) will mean that some will be affected earlier. Over a 3 – 4 year period the mortality rate will even out.
As a public health expert he has been remiss in not pointing out that only people with vulnerablities will be affected, and that they should be encouraged to get healthier. In other countries they have distributed products such as Vitamin D, Zinc, Ivermectin etc. None of that has been done here. No campaigning for people to address their obesity and diabetes. Ther very things that make them vulnerable to Covid-19.