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Case Study

MA Medical Reserve Corps – Health and Medical Volunteers for Local Public Health

Problem and Strategic Goals: Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) units function as part of local emergency preparedness teams. They supplement existing resources such as the Red Cross and local public health, fire, police, and emergency management services.  The Medical Reserve Corps program office is headquartered in the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General.There are currently 47 MRC units in Massachusetts.  Beginning in 2005, the MA Department of Public Health's Office on Emergency Preparedness (currently the Emergency Preparedness Bureau) engaged RVA to coordinate activities of the units in the Commonwealth.  In 2009, RVA managed a project with DPH and a Working Group to develop an approach and recommendations for a coordinated online registration for the MRC program and other public health volunteers. 

Coordination Objectives: RVA staff has developed substantial expertise on the local MRC program in Massachusetts and developed relationships with many of the local leaders.  RVA provides DPH with unique insights and strategic vision on the program and next steps.  Our staff members work from a neutral position with the goal of advancing emergency preparedness and the Commonwealth’s MRC system.  As part of our coordinator efforts, we designed and developed content for the state MRC website (, brochure, and quarterly newsletters.

Development of a New Online Registration System for Health Volunteers:  In 2009, the Working Group on Health Volunteers in MA (led by DPH) recommended development of an online registration system to allow better coordination among the different health volunteer programs (including MRC) in the Commonwealth.  In 2010, RVA staff conducted interviews with all MRC unit leaders to develop recommendations for this data system.  The subsequent report was used to hire the appropriate software vendor.  RVA worked closely with this vendor, DPH and the Massachusetts Medical Society through development, testing and marketing of this online system, now called MA Responds.  RVA continues to work closely with the vendor for the MA Responds system, facilitating meetings and discussions to assist with administering the system and its coordination and integration with MRCs.  This effort includes continuing outreach to the MRCs to enhance understanding of the system, its benefits and unit transition to its use.

Results and Verification: Launched in the summer of 2011, MA Responds now serves 37 MRC units who have integrated the program as well as the Behavioral Health Disaster Responders program.  More than 9,000 volunteers are registered in the system, allowing the Commonwealth to more effectively coordinate across regions in a public health emergency.