Research Priorities for Women Veterans' Reproductive Health
Of the estimated 2.3 million women Veterans in the United States, 870,000 were enrolled in VA healthcare in fiscal year 2021, and projections indicate that this number will continue to increase. The demand for reproductive healthcare services within VA has grown alongside this rapid increase in women Veterans using VA healthcare services. Increasingly used to support optimal healthcare, a learning health system (LHS) integrates data with research evidence to inform policy and practice, with the goal of delivering high quality, patient-centered care. Held in September 2021, The National VA Reproductive Health Research Conference provided a unique opportunity to survey the current state of knowledge on women Veterans’ reproductive health and to discuss and identify research priorities that will support optimizing VA reproductive healthcare in the context of a Learning Healthcare System.
Planned and developed by VA’s Office of Women’s Health (OWH) and HSR&D’s Women’s Health Research Network (WHRN), this one-day virtual conference provided a unique opportunity to highlight the continued growth in VA’s reproductive health research – and to solicit feedback from leadership inside and outside VA on current gaps in evidence and future research directions. Based on the research presentations and discussion, a set of seven VA reproductive health research priorities were developed to address knowledge gaps and provide research evidence to inform policy and practice. These priorities include:
- Improving patient-clinician communication for reproductive health decision-making
- Enhancing care coordination for reproductive healthcare
- Addressing persistent gaps in VA reproductive health research (i.e., pelvic pain, sexual function)
- Expanding reproductive mental health research beyond perinatal mental health (i.e., mental health and infertility)
- Developing, testing, and implementing models for trauma-informed reproductive healthcare
- Incorporating health equity frameworks into all reproductive health research
- Increasing Veteran-engaged reproductive health research
Priorities highlight the need for reproductive health research ranging from observational studies to studies focused on developing, testing, and implementing interventions to improve women’s health.
- Priorities based on conference presentations and discussions are intended to ensure that VA reproductive health researchers continue to provide evidence to support OWH policy and practice decisions in the context of an LHS. Resources offered through WHRN to support the reproductive health workgroup are critical to advancing reproductive health research and innovation in VA – and to ensuring that VA provides high-quality reproductive healthcare.
This study was supported by HSR&D (SDR 10-012), and Dr. Yano is supported by an HSR&D Senior Research Career Scientist Award. Drs. Katon, Rodriguez, and Yano (Director) are part of HSR&D’s Center for the Study of Healthcare Innovation, Implementation, and Policy in Los Angeles, CA (CSHIIP). Dr. Patton is with the VA Boston Healthcare System.
Katon J, Rodriguez A, Yano E, et al. and Patton E. Research Priorities to Support Women Veterans’ Reproductive Health and Healthcare Within a Learning Healthcare System. Women’s Health Issues. Commentary. January 24, 2023;online ahead of print.