Women Veterans Health Initiative

Image from ACCESS Auburn-Gresham’s new female veteran-friendly promotional materialsImproving outcomes for women who served

Women veterans and service members face a number of challenges that are unique to both their gender and their military service. They have more than double the suicide rate of civilian women and are more likely than men to face economic challenges, be homeless, and to be single parents and caregivers. And they are more likely to have experienced domestic abuse and military sexual assault than their male peers. Most female veterans don’t get care at the VA. Because community providers and health centers are a crucial resource for women veterans, we thought they would make great partners.

Through the Women Veterans Health Initiative, we are partnering with ACCESS Community Health Network to screen women veterans and ensure that they access quality, competent, veteran-specific healthcare. We crafted screening tools to identify women veterans who have poor social support, low life satisfaction, or pain. Based on the responses, we developed timely interventions that providers can use to direct the veteran or service member to additional, female-vet-friendly behavioral or mental health services, provide tips for addressing the issues that surfaced, and promote a holistic, integrative approach for that patient. We helped ACCESS modify its electronic medical record system to add questions that will help identify women who have served or are actively serving. And, knowing that the majority of women vets do not seek care at the VA, we helped them develop military-friendly marketing.

We also brought together a group of key stakeholders who are united in their belief that it’s time to provide better care to female veterans. This group, called the Women Veterans Roundtable, consists of community health providers and representatives from the VA, local philanthropy, veteran-serving organizations, and veterans themselves. The need to identify service members in healthcare was the first of their top three recommendations. In February 2019, the Illinois Senate agreed, adopting a resolution encouraging all providers to ask this question. We envision a healthcare system that routinely identifies female veterans and service members and uses this information to guide appropriate treatment. We’re working to make that happen.

This work is possible thanks to generous support of the VNA Foundation, Grusecki Family Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

 (Image from ACCESS Auburn-Gresham’s new veteran-friendly promotional materials)

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