By John Sharp
Marvia Jones, PhD, who has been serving as the violence prevention and policy manager for the KCMO Health Department has been appointed as the department’s director, officially beginning her new duties February 14.
Jones has worked in the public health field for 15 years, previously working at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention where she helped develop recommendations for public health best practices. She earned both her Master of Public Health and PhD degrees from the University of Kansas.
She replaces Rex Archer, MD, who retired in August.
City Manager Brian Platt said Jones’ expertise will bring a renewed commitment to sustainable violence prevention programs.
And Mayor Quinton Lucas noted that Jones, the first Black woman to serve as health director, “will enhance Kansas City’s longstanding commitment to public health for all Kansas City families – families like mine who relied on the Kansas City Health Department for immunizations and so many other healthcare needs – with a particular understanding of vulnerable populations and those who may have historic distrust of our healthcare systems.”
Jones pledged to focus on strengthening the department’s interactions with the different communities in the city that it serves, and being open to consider non-traditional methods of promoting community engagement.
“Community engagement is integral to public health because it demonstrates to residents that they have value, and that their voice is respected,” she said.
In an interview, Jones expressed her hope that the next fiscal year’s city budget includes funding to expand the department’s Aim4Peace violence prevention program which was started in 2008 and now only focuses on a portion of the East Patrol Division to a much broader area of the city and to get more of its highly trained violence interrupters on the streets.
She said reducing the spread of COVID-19 and any new variants of the disease will continue to be a department priority, and the department will continue to promote vaccinations and mask wearing.
Even though there are break-through cases where persons who have received recommended vaccinations and booster shots become infected, she explained that by and large persons who have received vaccinations and booster shots have not become critically ill.
She said even for vaccinated persons, mask wearing in crowded spaces is definitely well-advised. “It’s another layer of protection,” she said.
She also committed in the interview to consider scheduling more vaccination clinics in south Kansas City where there has definitely been a shortage of such clinics compared to central parts of the city.