2023 HSR&D/QUERI National Conference

5015 — The Evolution of a National Women Veterans’ Research Engagement Group: The VA HSR&D Women’s Improvement Network (WIN)

Lead/Presenter: Paula Edwards
All Authors: Chrystal JC (Center for the Study of Healthcare Innovation, Implementation, and Policy [CSHIIP], VA Greater Los Angeles) Hamilton AB (CSHIIP; David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los Angeles) Ono SS (Center to Improve Veteran Involvement in Care [CIVIC], VA Portland Health Care System; Department of Psychiatry, Oregon Health & Science University) Lesser R (CSHIIP) Matsumoto RA (CIVIC) Fenwick K (CSHIIP) Frayne S (Center for Innovation to Implementation [Ci2i], VA Palo Alto Healthcare System; Division of Primary Care and Population Health, Stanford University School of Medicine) Yano EM (CSHIIP; Department of Health Policy & Management, UCLA Jonathan and Karin Fielding School of Public Health) The VA HSR&D Women’s Improvement Network [WIN]

In October of 2019, the WIN (Women’s Improvement Network) was launched as the first national, all-women Veteran research engagement group, with the goals of informing the planning and execution of VA women’s health research studies, supporting spread of women’s health-related innovations, and disseminating women’s health research findings to constituent audiences.

The WIN has grown to include 25 women Veterans of diverse backgrounds. Members meet every other month on Zoom and activities also occur via email. The WIN serves as a model for virtual, national research engagement in which members have demonstrated sustainment and growth over time, as well as partnerships with research stakeholders within the VA.

The WIN aims to meet engagement requests from the greater research community while exercising attunement to members’ meeting preferences and needs. WIN prioritizes transparency, diffusion of Veteran stakeholder opportunities amongst members, and shared decision-making in all activities. A survey to explore members’ meeting preferences and research interests was conducted in 2020. Results from this survey informed WIN strategic planning and led to the development of a WIN profile sheet to inform engagement partners about WIN composition.

Survey results determined that WIN members (N = 19) had not previously participated in VA research or quality improvement projects before their participation in WIN, and less than 5% were currently employed by VA. Most members identified as white (71%), followed by Black or African American (17%), and over 84% received their health care at VA in the past year (at time of survey). Meeting attendance has been steadfast with an average attendance of ten members per meeting. In the past two years, WIN’s accomplishments include providing a platform for review of study components (e.g., measures) related to grant proposals and work-in-progress; helping to foster community between Veteran Engagement Groups (e.g., partnering with Portland CIVIC VEG on guest lecture about Whole Health and self-care during COVID-19); advising investigators on set-up of population-specific VEGs (e.g., LGBT VEG); engaging in VA project-specific stakeholder engagement opportunities; providing feedback on VA’s external website to improve accessibility for women Veterans, as well as completing an internal survey to inform members’ participation preferences and goals within WIN.

The WIN demonstrates unique feasibility for women Veterans to make an impact on health research. The virtual, national model for research engagement has made research partnerships more accessible to Veterans, including fostering partnerships between researchers and Veterans. The evolution of WIN hinges on the mutual respect between diverse women Veterans represented, as well as shared decision-making across engagement activities.