On November 2, NACCHO released the 2015 Network Profile of the Medical Reserve Corps report, a comprehensive look at the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) network. The Medical Reserve Corps is a national network of more than 200,000 local volunteers dedicated to the safety, preparedness, and health of their communities. The MRC was created after the September 11, 2001 attacks identified a need for an organized volunteer network to assist first responders in the event of an emergency.
Now in its second decade, the MRC network’s reach and impact have grown tremendously. The first report on the MRC network, looked at the administration, composition, and community impact of the MRC. To further investigate the MRC network’s opportunities and challenges, NACCHO launched the second national survey in the spring of 2015. With more than 800 units participating, and a response rate of 80%, research revealed the network continues to contribute to the nation’s health and safety through commitment to local public health, emergency preparedness, and response efforts. This year’s survey built on the 2013 Network Profile, examining how the MRC has grown over the past two years. The publication also includes results from NACCHO’s MRC stakeholder study, incorporating opinions of the MRC network from those entities that work with them the most.
MRC units continue to go above and beyond to serve their communities. Nearly 20% of units participated in an emergency response last year, a majority of which were after a natural disaster or infectious disease outbreak. Eighty-five percent of MRC units have the capacity to participate in mass vaccination events and 89% of units can perform community outreach for public health issues. Many LHDs rely on the MRC to support activities such as dispensing vital medications during a pandemic or other infectious disease outbreak, providing accurate and up-to-date risk information to their communities, and staffing shelters for those displaced by a disaster. NACCHO’s MRC Stakeholder Study also revealed that respondents felt that preparedness (87%) and emergency response (90%) were important or very important for an MRC to provide in their respective jurisdictions. Overall, these stakeholder responses show that in the majority of cases, the value of the MRC is recognized by local partners.
MRC units are also embracing social media and technology. More than 60% of units reported using social media to reach their volunteers and communities, an increase of 11%. While email distribution lists and telephone calls remain a common way to exchange information during an emergency, even more unit leaders are contacting their volunteers by text message and social media.
MRC Challenge Awards
In 2012, NACCHO and the MRC Program Office developed the Challenge Awards as a way to foster creativity and innovation throughout the MRC network. All Challenge Award applicants identify a need in their community, and come up with a way to meet it. On average, awardees utilized more than 300 volunteer hours per project, which adds up to nearly $7,000 in workforce hours. The Network Profile features three feature stories about successful projects.
The Future of the MRC
Public health budgets have been declining for many years, leaving many health departments with limited resources to respond to emergencies in their communities. The MRC will continue to be an even more vital organization as the reliance on volunteers increases. The 2015 Network Profile underscores what a critical asset an MRC unit can be for a local health department. MRC volunteers provide a necessary resource for local health department staff to fulfill their mission to create a healthier, safer community.
For more information about the Medical Reserve Corps and the 2015 Network Profile and its companion pieces, visit the NACCHO website.