Report on Growing VA Research Agenda for Women Veterans
Women Veterans are now entering the military at unprecedented levels (20% of new recruits); moreover, recent efforts to ensure access to VA care among all Veterans discharged from military service in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in a nearly 50% enrollment rate among young women Veterans. This has substantially changed the demographics of Veterans served by the VA healthcare system. In response to the need for more information about women Veterans, VA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) and, in particular, HSR&D, accelerated their efforts to foster the conduct of high-priority research on women Veterans’ health and healthcare issues. As a result, ORD sponsored the first national VA women’s health research agenda-setting conference in 2004. Since that landmark conference, VA women’s health research has made many advances; however, the need for evidence-based practice and policy has continued to accelerate. Thus, HSR&D and the VA Women Veterans Health Strategic Health Care Group co-sponsored the 2010 VA Women’s Health Services Research Conference. This paper reports on the conference, as well as the resulting research agenda for moving forward on behalf of women who have served in the military.
- The conference was designed to accelerate the creation of research-clinical partnerships that would advance a research agenda focused on studies capable of heightened impact on practice and policy. The conference also focused on public sector partnerships (e.g., NIH-VA, AHRQ-VA, DoD-VA), with an emphasis on quality improvement and implementation research.
- Conference discussions targeted six key priorities for research in women Veterans’ health: 1) access/rural health, 2) primary care and prevention, 3) mental health, 4) post-deployment health, 5) complex chronic conditions, and 6) reproductive health.
- Recommendations for the future VA women’s health research agenda, resulting from this conference, included, to name a few:
- Address gaps in women Veterans’ knowledge and use of VA services (e.g., outreach/education, social marketing, telemedicine);
- Evaluate and improve quality of transitions from military to VA care;
- Assess gender differences in the presentation and outcomes of chronic diseases;
- Determine reproductive health needs of women Veterans;
- Examine the structure and care models that support patient-aligned care teams;
- Evaluate variations in mental healthcare needs;
- Assess and reduce the risk of homelessness among women Veterans;
- Conduct research on post-deployment reintegration and readjustment among women Veterans; and
- Develop combat exposure measure(s) that reflect women Veterans’ experiences.
Drs. Yano and Bean-Mayberry are part of HSR&D’s Center for the Study of Healthcare Provider Behavior, Sepulveda, CA; Dr. Bastian is part of HSR&D’s Center for Health Services Research in Primary Care, Durham, NC; and Dr. Eisen is Director of HSR&D, Washington, DC.
Yano E, Bastian L, Bean-Mayberry B, Eisen S, et al. Using Research to Transform Care for Women Veterans: Advancing the Research Agenda and Enhancing Research-Clinical Partnerships. Women’s Health Issues July 2011;21(4, Supplement):S73-83.