Because many more women are serving in the military, being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and enrolling in VA care, VA clinicians are treating twice as many women Veterans as they did a decade ago. This increase poses challenges for a system historically designed to see predominantly men. VA is responding by accelerating changes in practice and policy initiatives, such as the recently revised VHA Handbook on Care for Women Veterans.
In response to the demand for research to inform evidence-based approaches to improving access to high quality care for women Veterans, the VA HSR&D Service has funded a new VA Women's Health Research Consortium (WHRC, pronounced "WORK"). WHRC is designed to build capacity in women Veterans' health services research, with an emphasis on accelerating movement to interventions, quality improvement, and implementation research. A cornerstone of this effort was the establishment in 2004 of the first-ever national VA Women's Health Research agenda and the publication of a systematic review that demonstrated that the women Veterans' health literature is principally descriptive and observational rather than evidence-based.1, 2 Since 2004, the number of VA investigators explicitly interested in Women's Health Research has tripled, with more than 150 M.D. and Ph.D. researchers expressing interest in tackling research in a wide array of critically important areas relevant to VA operational concerns. Further, the number of women Veterans' research peer-reviewed papers published in the past five years outstrips the volume published in the previous 25 years combined, and has both dramatically extended our knowledge and simultaneously identified important knowledge gaps.
The goals of the Consortium are therefore to systematically arm this burgeoning and motivated cadre of VA investigators with knowledge, skills, and collegial VA leadership relationships necessary to generate relevant scientific knowledge regarding evidence-based care models, interventions, and strategies for transforming VA care for women Veterans. The Consortium will provide:
A special focus of the Consortium's efforts will be on fostering investigators' capabilities and readiness to translate current and emerging evidence into testable interventions among women Veterans.3 The Consortium, led by Elizabeth Yano, Ph.D. (VA Greater Los Angeles & UCLA) and Susan Frayne, M.D. (VA Palo Alto & Stanford), is also partnering with the VA Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI) Center for Implementation Practice & Research Support (CIPRS) to promote implementation of women's health research into routine practice.
The Consortium recently organized a VA Women's Health Services Research Conference in Arlington, VA, which attracted not only a large number of researchers but also senior VA leaders from almost every major office. The Conference also drew representatives from the U.S. Departments of Defense, Health & Human Services and Labor, the Institute of Medicine, and National Institutes of Health among other agencies (for more information go to www.research. va.gov/programs/womens_health/default.cfm). The Consortium is also coordinating a special VA Supplement to the journal, Women's Health Issues, with manuscripts due November 15, 2010 (see call for papers on same website). For more information about the VA Women's Health Research Consortium please contact Dr. Ruth Klap, VA WHRC Program Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.