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Professor awarded prestigious Liley Medal

Professor receives medal for revealing NZ’s dramatic rise in infectious diseases

Professor Michael Baker from the University of Otago, Wellington, has been awarded the prestigious Liley Medal from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) for his outstanding contribution to the health and medical sciences in the field of public health.

The Liley Medal was presented to Professor Baker at the 2013 Research Honours Dinner hosted by the Royal Society of New Zealand at the Town Hall in Dunedin last night (Wednesday, 27 November).

In 2012, Professor Baker was the lead author on an already highly cited paper1 in the world’s leading general medical journal, The Lancet. The paper presented a national study of 5 million overnight hospital admissions showing a dramatic rise in the incidence of serious infectious diseases and rising inequalities across populations in New Zealand.

The paper uncovered a relative increase of 51 per cent in the age-standardised rate of hospital admissions for infectious diseases between the periods 1989–1993 and 2004–2008. The authors also showed that Māori and Pacific people and those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged bore a disproportionate share of the burden.

“Through this study Professor Baker and his colleagues have challenged the widely held view that as a country gets wealthier, infectious diseases inevitably decline. Instead, they’ve shown that in New Zealand we’re experiencing a double whammy, with a rise in infectious diseases as well as chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes,” says the HRC’s Chief Executive, Dr Robin Olds.

“The findings have enormous implications for health and social policy in New Zealand, and will likely stimulate research and action in other countries where ethnic and socioeconomic inequalities may predispose vulnerable populations to poor health outcomes.”


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