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Local Leaders' Perspectives on Women Veterans' Health Care: What Would Ideal Look Like?

Brunner J, Cain CL, Yano EM, Hamilton AB. Local Leaders' Perspectives on Women Veterans' Health Care: What Would Ideal Look Like? Women's health issues : official publication of the Jacobs Institute of Women's Health. 2019 Jan 1; 29(1):64-71.

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BACKGROUND: The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) faces challenges in providing comprehensive, gender-sensitive care for women. National policies have led to important advancements, but local leadership also plays a vital role in implementing changes and operationalizing national priorities. In this article, we explore the notions of ideal women veterans' health care articulated by women's health leaders at local VHA facilities and regional networks, with the goal of identifying elements that could inform practice and policy. METHODS: We conducted semistructured interviews with 86 local and regional women's health leaders at 12 VHA medical centers across four regions. At the conclusion of interviews about women's primary care, participants were asked to imagine "ideal care" for women veterans. Interviews were transcribed and coded using a hybrid inductive/deductive approach. RESULTS: In describing ideal care, participants commonly touched on whether women veterans should have separate primary care services from men; the need for childcare, expanded reproductive health services, resources, and staffing; geographic accessibility; the value of input from women veterans; the physical appearance of facilities; fostering active interest in women's health across providers and staff; and the relative priority of women's health at the VHA. CONCLUSIONS: Policy and practice changes to care for women veterans must be mindful of key stakeholders' vision for that care. Specific features of that vision include clinic construction that anticipates a growing patient population, providing childcare and expanded reproductive health services, ensuring adequate support staff, expanding mechanisms to incorporate women veterans' input, and fostering a culture oriented towards women's health at the organizational level.

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