Baker will lead global efforts to help children and families access critical nutrition and healthcare during the worst hunger crisis of our times
New York, NY (January 3, 2023) – Helen Keller Intl, a global health organization working to eliminate barriers to good health, sound nutrition, and clear vision for millions of children and family members around the world, has appointed Shawn K. Baker as Chief Program Officer. Based in Senegal, Baker will lead Helen Keller’s efforts to reverse the growing hunger crisis, help millions of families living in poverty access critical healthcare and nutritious food, and strengthen food and health systems in the 20 countries where Helen Keller works across Africa, Asia, Europe, and the United States. Baker began his new role on January 1, 2023.
Baker has more than 30 years of experience in global public health and nutrition, including 19 years at Helen Keller Intl in previous roles and 25 years living in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Since February 2020, Baker has been the inaugural Chief Nutritionist for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), where he oversaw the Agency’s vision and strategy to address malnutrition in low-income countries. Prior to joining USAID, Baker was the first director of nutrition at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In his new role at Helen Keller, Baker will continue to support our world’s most vulnerable communities through scientifically proven solutions that are feasible, scalable, and equitable.
“More than a billion people do not have access to vision services, essential healthcare, or vital nutrition. Shawn returns to Helen Keller at just the right moment and is exactly the right person to help us alleviate the effects of this global malnutrition crisis,” said Kathy Spahn, Helen Keller CEO. “Shawn brings an exceptional track record of outcomes for children, families, and partnerships. His impressive career reflects a passionate commitment to helping families support their children to survive and achieve their potential.”
“I have always been inspired by Helen Keller’s courage in confronting the injustices in the world. She fought for those were constantly being left out – left out of health, left out of living a life of dignity, and being valued,” said Baker. “As I return to Helen Keller Intl, I am honored to continue to support Helen’s legacy and help create a world where no one is deprived of the opportunity to live a healthy life. I am excited to be joining an amazingly skillful, dedicated team for perhaps one of the most important periods of our lives.”
While at USAID, Baker chaired the Agency’s Nutrition Leadership Council, oversaw the vision and strategy of the Agency’s Center for Nutrition in the Bureau for Resilience and Food Security, and coordinated related efforts across USAID. Baker also guided investments and engagement with partners to address malnutrition in developing countries and chaired the Senior Nutrition Champions group that oversees the US Governments Global Nutrition Coordination Plan. During Baker’s 19-year tenure at Helen Keller Intl, Baker held roles including Niger Country Director, Bangladesh Country Director, and Vice President and Regional Director for Africa. He spent nine years with Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine working with the Niger Health Information System, Center for International Health and Development, Famine Early Warning System in Southern Africa and Niger, and Madagascar food and nutrition surveillance system. Baker started his career in international development as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Baker’s service on committees and advisory groups includes the Technical Review Panel for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis, which he chaired until November 2014. He was chair of the Executive Committee of the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement and then served as special advisor, supporting development of the 3.0 strategy. He was also on the board of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition from 2013-2016. He was awarded the Officier de l’Ordre du Mérite du Niger by the Presidency of the Republic in 2001. Baker has a master’s of public health from Tulane University, and a bachelor’s of science degree in biology from the University of Miami.
About Helen Keller Intl
Guided by the remarkable legacy of its co-founder, Helen Keller, Helen Keller Intl partners with communities that are striving to overcome longstanding cycles of poverty. By delivering the essential building blocks of good health, sound nutrition, and clear vision, the organization help millions of people create lasting change in their own lives. Working in more than 20 countries – across Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States – and together with a global community of supporters, Helen Keller Intl helps to ensure every person has the opportunity – as Helen did – to reach their true potential. Learn more at HelenKellerIntl.org.