• Community preparedness: Expanding existing partnerships with academia to build resilience through experiential learning

      Cleveland, Nina; Palen, Mark; University of Georgia (Georgia Public Health Association, 2016)
      Background: Sustainability and mitigation in preparedness after grant money is gone has suddenly become a hot topic in the public health emergency preparedness world. By the same token, funding provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for individual preparedness initiatives has not had the desired mitigation impacts. The question becomes, are there alternative approaches that reach more individuals to build a culture of preparedness in communities? One solution involves the leveraging of academic and regional public health partnerships with their Medical Reserve Corps Units (MRC), to train college students in individual preparedness. The purpose of this study is to describe best practices and discuss the incorporation of experiential learning and training activities into an Introduction to Public Health course at the University of Georgia. It also describes the development of a strong academic and practice partnership though the use the agencies’ MRC units. Methods: Three experiential learning activities, rooted in the constructs of perceived susceptibility, perceived benefits and self-efficacy were introduced into the course. First, didactic elements addressing the purpose and structure of public health response, individual preparedness and the role of Medical Reserve Corps volunteers in response were incorporated. Second, the public health partner developed a lecture covering public health emergency preparedness and response using a real world-sheltering example and coupled it with a tabletop exercise. Finally, students were given a final exam option where they built a home emergency kit. Results: Over the course of 3 years, approximately 500 students have been trained in individual preparedness. Students have demonstrated an increased foundational knowledge about the Medical Reserve Corps and public health preparedness in general. Furthermore, this collaboration increased the numbers of new MRC Volunteers and provided for a strong academic practice partnership. Conclusions: Through this collaboration, more students know how to take care of themselves and their families, decreasing the number of potential well worried. This collaboration has also strengthened the ties between the two institutions, leading to more opportunities for partnership.