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Putting a Face on Public Health 

Rex Archer, MD, MPD, City of Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department

Rex Archer, MD, MPD, is a longstanding pioneer in the movement to make workplaces, hotels, bars and restaurants smoke free. He worked to pass significant smoke free legislation passed in Michigan, Maryland and now Kansas City. Leading the Kansas City Health Department, it has researched and adopted new cardiac resuscitation protocols which are saving the lives of people who have heart attacks. His goal is to get this research published, ultimately leading to nationwide adoption.  

Archer has been involved with public health in one way or another for nearly his entire life. It started when he was three and was hospitalized during the 1957 flu pandemic and continued as he learned how to cope with asthma when he was a 5th grade football player. "My earliest experiences taught me that that medicine and illness care in particular have a lot of potential weaknesses and we can do a lot better, especially through prevention," says Archer. The lessons he learned as a youngster have served him well throughout his adult life as a leader in public health where he has worked on issues as diverse as the smoke-free movement, accreditation for public health departments, protocols for emergency cardiac resuscitation, and public health branding.

Now in charge of the Kansas City Health Department, Archer has earned a reputation as a reformer and a visionary when it comes to improving public health and helping people to better understand the value public health work brings to the communities it serves. He has been a pioneer in the movement to make workplaces, hotels, bars and restaurants smoke free, working to get significant legislation passed in Michigan, Maryland, and now Kansas City. Additionally, Archer's department has researched and adopted new cardiac resuscitation protocols which are saving more lives of people who suffer from heart attacks. His goal is to get this research published in a national journal so that these protocols can be adopted nationwide.

Archer is strong proponent of creating national accreditation standards for public health departments. He explains, "Through accreditation, we can hold ourselves accountable for working to improve the quality of public health on a regular basis." Not surprisingly, the Kansas City Health Department is the second health department in the country to earn accreditation. 

Another passion of Archer's is educating the public about the positive impact public health work has on lives every day. Working together with the National Association of County and City Health Officials, Archer, a former president of NACCHO, has rolled out a national public health identity campaign which includes a new logo and tagline, communications guidelines, and a toolkit. To date, more than 150 local public health departments and dozens of state health departments have started using the logo on cars, uniforms, posters, brochures, letterhead and websites. "My hope is that just as you can picture a police badge or EMS cross, eventually you will be able to recognize public health."