November 4, 2007
Stephen E. Laker, MS, LEHP, received the 2007 Milton and Ruth Roemer Prize for Creative Local Public Health Work today at the American Public Health Association (APHA) 135th Annual Meeting & Exposition.
The award recognizes a local health officer who has demonstrated exceptionally creative and innovative work in the field of public health.
Laker has been a public health administrator at the Vermilion County Health Department in Danville, Ill., since 1976. He began his work there in 1971 as an environmental health inspector and from 1976–1982 worked as director of environmental health.
Viewed by his peers as a public health visionary in the area of bioterrorism preparedness, Laker has been a driving force behind the development of the Illinois Public Health Mutual Aid System. He was elected chair of the system’s executive board in 2005 for the first term and is working to ensure the system meets the diverse needs of local public health departments across the state. During a January 2007 site visit, representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the Illinois Public Health Mutual Aid System, which seeks to strengthen preparedness, is a model for states nationwide. The system is designed to ensure that local public health departments share resources such as personnel, equipment, supplies and services in the event of an emergency requiring a public health response
Illinois Public Health Association President Miriam Link-Mullison said in a letter nominating Laker for the Roemer award that the mutual aid system has been both groundbreaking and necessary.
”What better way to improve health than striving for mutually beneficial goals,” she said. “It is comforting to know that in the event of a disaster, trained local public health professionals will be able to assist a health department in (its) time of need.”
A long-time partner with the Emergency Management Agency in Vermilion County, Laker began discussions in the late 1990s about bioterrorism. He has worked with groups such as the Illinois Terrorism Task Force and others across the region and state to ensure local public health efforts resulted in improved terrorism preparedness. Laker worked as a member of the Local Emergency Planning Committee to ensure needed funding for the county’s Hazardous Materials Team. He has been an active supporter of Vermilion County’s annual Chemical Stockpile Emergency Planning and Preparedness field exercises.
He is a member of many statewide committees including the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Immunization Advisory Group, the Director’s Local Health Liaison Committee and the Illinois Terrorism Task Force. He has served as president of the Illinois Association of Public Health Administrators and chair of the association’s WIC/Family Case Management/Futures Committee. He received the association’s Leadership and Service Award as well as the Special Recognition Award.
Among Laker’s many previous awards, he has been honored with the Illinois Public Health Association’s Public Health Enterprise and Promotion Award as well as the Illinois Primary Care Association and Office of Community Health Partnership Award. He also received the Community Blood Service of Illinois Appreciation of Whole Blood Donations award.