Deborah Baker, 1949-2009

November 26, 2009

A world-renowned expert on inequalities in health has died.

Deborah Baker was born in London on 23 September 1949 and studied at Brunel University before qualifying as a psychologist in 1973.

She went on to complete a doctorate at the University of Bath in 1985 while bringing up her three children.

Her research, which drew on her own experience as well as that of a large research sample, broke new ground in its analysis of the factors in identity formation in young mothers.

This led to Professor Baker's first full-time academic post as a lecturer in psychology at Bath, a job that enabled her to develop her understanding of health psychology through collaboration with two of the leading authorities in the field, Raymond Illsley and Rudolph Klein.

She was then promoted to the position of senior research fellow at the Institute for Child Health, University of Bristol, where she worked on the influential Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.

This was followed by another move across the country when she took on a role at the National Primary Care Research and Development Centre at the University of Manchester in 1998.

Although she soon became involved in the cultural scene and was a keen supporter of Manchester United Football Club, she ended her career at the nearby University of Salford, after being appointed professor of public health in 2003 and then director of the Centre for Public Health Research.

She was responsible for setting up a masters in public health and for combining teaching and supervision of PhD students with an extensive and internationally acclaimed research programme.

By maintaining close links with local primary care trusts and the communities they serve, Professor Baker had a direct influence on health policy within Greater Manchester and far beyond.

Of particular concern to her was the development of effective service provision to anticipate and address the lasting problems that can arise from poor health among pregnant women and young children.

Ruth Wright, head of the School of Social Work, Psychology and Public Health at Salford, remembers a woman "generous in support of others' careers" who "built up excellent research teams" and whose research was "of great practical relevance to people struggling with health inequalities and in raising awareness. Making a difference was the central thrust of her work."

Professor Baker died of lung cancer on 14 October and is survived by her husband, Matthew, three children and two grandchildren.

matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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