The health, safety, and security of Volunteers are the Peace Corps’ top priorities. Over the past few years, the Peace Corps has undergone one of the most extensive reform efforts in the agency’s history, intensely focusing on improving the quality of support we provide to Volunteers, particularly in health, safety, and security.
The Peace Corps is proud of the progress we made in the areas of Volunteer health and safety. Building Capacity, Building Peace [PDF] summarizes our accomplishments, highlighting our endeavors to build capacity overseas.
Developed and implemented Sexual Assault Risk-Reduction and Response Program
The Peace Corps has implemented a Sexual Assault Risk-Reduction and Response (SARRR) Program designed to reduce the risk of sexual assault and ensure Volunteers receive compassionate, timely, and comprehensive support.
The SARRR program includes more than 30 policy changes, the creation of the Office of Victim Advocacy, extensive training for Volunteers and staff, and new clearly defined procedures for reducing the risk of sexual assault and responding to Volunteers who report incidents of sexual assault.
Not only has the agency fully implemented the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 but has also gone beyond the law’s requirements to provide support and care to Volunteers who are victims of crime.
The agency encourages Volunteers to report incidents to Peace Corps staff and seek out support by promoting the utmost confidentiality and a Volunteer-driven process.
Read more about the Sexual Assault Risk-Reduction and Response Program.
Strengthened delivery of health services
The Peace Corps is committed to providing first-class health care to all Volunteers no matter where they serve. To ensure continuity of high-quality care, the Peace Corps has implemented the following:
- Improved health care in the field. The agency improved the supervision, hiring, credentialing, and management of Peace Corps medical officers at each post.
- Revitalized the Quality Improvement and Post-Service units. Volunteers and returned Volunteers have direct access to medical professionals at Peace Corps headquarters at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Created a Health Care Quality Assurance Council. The council oversees, monitors, and reports on the quality of Peace Corps health services.
- Implemented an electronic medical records system. The system gives Peace Corps medical officers better access to Volunteers’ medical files and allows for real-time oversight, improving the quality of care.
- Addressed challenges in post-service care. After conducting extensive analyses of post-service Volunteer health-care issues, the agency collaborated with the U.S. Department of Labor to create solutions that address concerns related to Volunteer claims under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act.
- Improved mental health services. The Office of Health Services stationed mental health providers at regional medical hubs, utilized evidence-supported techniques in mental health treatment, and revamped the medical evacuation program in Washington, D.C.
- Defined Volunteer health measures. The agency developed objective metrics for Volunteer health and improving health by utilizing the Healthy People 2020 objectives and the U.S. Surgeon General’s National Prevention Strategy.
Recruitment and outreach
After several years of strengthening its core programs, the Peace Corps implemented sweeping changes to recruitment and outreach in order to remain competitive and keep up with our rapidly changing world. This forward-looking reform has been highly successful. In the first full year the new application process was in place, more than 23,000 Americans applied for Peace Corps service—shattering a 40-year record for the most applications received in a single year. (See press release.)
- New application process and choice of countries: Peace Corps applicants can now choose the specific programs and countries they want to apply to, selecting the path that best fits their personal and professional goals. The revised online application takes about an hour to finish and has contributed to a dramatically improved rate of completion. Previously, less than 30 percent of individuals who began a Peace Corps application completed it. With the shortened application, more than 90 percent complete it, providing the Peace Corps with a much larger pool of highly qualified candidates.
- Stepped up efforts to recruit in underrepresented communities: The Peace Corps has partnered with historically black colleges and universities, African-American fraternities and sororities, and other organizations representing diverse Americans to expand its reach and develop a Volunteer corps that reflects the rich diversity of the United States. To strengthen diversity outreach, the agency created seven new diversity recruiter positions.
A data-driven agency
The foundation of the Peace Corps’ reform efforts was a Comprehensive Agency Assessment [PDF] commissioned in January 2010, a six-month process that resulted in a new strategic plan [PDF]. Beginning with this assessment, the Peace Corps has been firmly committed to operating as a data-driven agency, measuring for impact and highly focused on rigorous monitoring and evaluation of all programs.
Strategically targeted resources and country presence for greatest impact:
- Country Portfolio Review: Every year, the Peace Corps conducts an objective, data-driven analysis to guide strategic decisions regarding potential new country entries and allocations of Volunteers and other resources. The Country Portfolio Review results help the agency focus its work where the need is greatest, as well as ensuring the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars.
- Focus-In/Train-Up: The Focus-In/Train-Up strategy dramatically strengthened the quality of technical training and program support for Volunteers. The Peace Corps partners with host governments, universities, nongovernmental organizations, and donors to ensure that Volunteers are focusing on projects that are needed by their communities and that have been proven to be most effective at achieving development results. The Focus In/Train Up strategy is further strengthened by the recommendations of the inter-office Monitoring and Evaluation Task Force.