2013 Milton and Ruth Roemer Prize for Creative Local Public Health Work


Rex D. Archer, MD, MPH, director of health for the Kansas City, Mo., Health Department, received the Milton and Ruth Roemer Prize for Creative Local Public Health Work.

The annual award recognizes a health professional who has demonstrated exceptionally creative and innovative local public health work that protects, advances or recovers the health of the general population or special populations.

Archer encourages the use of best practices at the health department and also champions programs, clinics and projects to develop new and creative ways to provide improved services, often overcoming considerable resistance, that later result in recognition as a new promising or model practice. For example, he initiated and chaired a new National Association of County and City Health Officials committee on bioterrorism and emergency preparedness. The committee was later asked by CDC officials to provide input for a Strategic Plan on Biological and Chemical Terrorism Preparedness. And he successfully advocated for expansion of public health preparedness funding to include public information officers and risk communication training.

Among his many accomplishments, Archer led a NACCHO committee that developed the first governmental public health logo, which launched in 2006 and was being used two years later by a third of local health departments. He and his staff collaborated with nine other local health departments to develop a regional news release protocol that allows for coordination of regional public health messages. He also has been a leader in moving the field of public health back toward recognizing the importance of the impact of social determinants on health.

Archer continues to work with faith-based community organizations to address social determinants of health, and those groups successfully worked with the Kansas City Council to support a state ballot initiative that would have capped the rates payday lenders were allowed to charge borrowers. He oversaw and approved the development of a new CPR protocol for the city, a change that resulted in an increase of the one-month ventrical fibrillation survival rate from 22 percent to 44 percent. The change later was recognized as a model practice. He has been instrumental in the city’s successful efforts on tobacco control, improving the visibility of health issues other than HIV among the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and consolidating the health department’s response to extreme heat emergencies.

Archer has served as president of NACCHO and has been honored by such organizations as the Missouri Public Health Association for distinguished service and with the Crisis Management Award by the Kansas City chapter of the American Society for Public Administration for leadership in response to cross-contamination of anthrax from the Brentwood postal facility to a local stamp fulfillment center in Kansas City.

Before heading the health department in Kansas City, Archer was health officer and medical director at the Garrett County Health Department in Maryland, physician in charge for Employee Health Programs at the Ford Motor Company and chief physician at the Ford Motor Company’s Wixom Lincoln Assembly Plant and Milan Plastics Plant. He is a member of the Public Health Accreditation Board and serves on numerous other boards and committees, including the Mid America Coalition on Health Care, Mid America Regional Council Regional Homeland Security Advisory Committee and State Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness Committee.