Improving the health and health care of women Veterans is a high priority within the Department of Veterans Affairs, said a panel of leading researchers on March 27.
"VA is committed to serving women Veterans and it is our privilege to do so," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "We are honored to sponsor research that supports the outstanding care our women Veterans have earned and deserve."
VA's research commitment is multidisciplinary, covering the areas of biomedical, clinical, health services, and rehabilitation. To meet the needs of a growing, diverse demographic that spans all generations of women Veterans -- from an aging population of WWII Veterans to those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan--the pace of research activity in recent years has greatly accelerated.
"From building an extensive research network that supports top notch investigators to providing a strong foundation of knowledge for quality care, VA is addressing the diverse health care needs of this fastest growing segment of the Veteran population," said Dr. Joel Kupersmith, VA chief research and development officer, who was the opening speaker.
Between 2004 and 2008, more research on the health of women Veterans was published than in the previous 25 years combined. Today, VA supports a significant amount of research on a wide variety of health issues faced by women. In fiscal year 2011, the agency funded 60 studies for a total investment of more than $12 million.
VA women Veteran's health research focuses on:
Returning combat women Veterans -- gender differences with regard to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), post-deployment behaviors, and reintegration;
Understanding barriers and improving access to VA health care for women Veterans;
Long-term health outcomes of women who served during the Vietnam era;
Expanding mental health research including PTSD, substance abuse, and sexual trauma; and
Basic research (biomedical) on breast cancer including hormones, regulation, genetic factors, as well as autoimmune diseases.
To bolster support for investigators conducting women's health services research, as well as recruitment and inclusion of women Veterans in a wider array of studies, VA Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D) launched the Women's Health Research Network (WHRN).
The WHRN includes two partnered components: the Women's Health Research Consortium providing training and mentorship to researchers focusing on women's health research, and the Women's Health Practice-based Research Network supporting clinical research networks that test VA-based women's health-related interventions and studies requiring recruitment of women Veterans at multiple sites. The former is headed by Elizabeth Yano, Ph.D., M.S.P.H.; the latter by Dr. Susan Frayne, M.P.H.
"Excellence in health care begins with excellence in research" said Dr. Robert A. Petzel, VA's under secretary for health. "VA research has put together a solid infrastructure that supports quality health care for women Veterans."
Joining Kupersmith to discuss the ways VA research improves the health of women Veterans were Dr. Sally Haskell, acting director of Comprehensive Women's Health for the Women Veterans Health Strategic Health Care Group, and three leading researchers: Elizabeth Yano, co-director of the VA Health Services Research and Development Center for the Study of Healthcare Provider Behavior at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System; Susan Frayne, associate director for development and staff physician at the Women's Health Center of Excellence, VA Palo Alto Healthcare System; and Dr. Donna Washington, M.P.H., program area lead, Women's Health and Equity Strategic Program, HSR&D Center of Excellence for the Study of Healthcare Provider Behavior and staff physician at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.
The media roundtable culminated a month of activities sponsored by VA to recognize Women's History Month. It is the third in a series of media roundtables sponsored by VA's Office of Research and Development. For more information about other roundtables, see www.research.va.gov/media_roundtable. For more information on VA Research, visit www.research.va.gov.