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Research Priorities to Support Women Veterans' Reproductive Health and Health Care Within a Learning Health Care System

Katon, Jodie G; Rodriguez, Adriana; Yano, Elizabeth M; Johnson, Amanda M; Frayne, Susan M; Hamilton, Alison B; Miller, Laura J; Williams, Kayla; Zephyrin, Laurie; Patton, Elizabeth W
PMID: 36702724
ISSN: 1878-4321
CID: 5517142

Transdisciplinary Imagination: Addressing Equity and Mistreatment in Perinatal Care

Vedam, Saraswathi; Zephyrin, Laurie; Hardtman, Pandora; Lusero, Indra; Olson, Rachel; Hassan, Sonia S; van den Broek, Nynke; Stoll, Kathrin; Niles, Paulomi; Goode, Keisha; Nunally, Lauren; Kandal, Remi; Bair, James W
Inequities in birth outcomes are linked to experiential and environmental exposures. There have been expanding and intersecting wicked problems of inequity, racism, and quality gaps in childbearing care during the pandemic. We describe how an intentional transdisciplinary process led to development of a novel knowledge exchange vehicle that can improve health equity in perinatal services. We introduce the Quality Perinatal Services Hub, an open access digital platform to disseminate evidence based guidance, enhance health systems accountability, and provide a two-way flow of information between communities and health systems on rights-based perinatal services. The QPS-Hub responds to both community and decision-makers' needs for information on respectful maternity care. The QPS-Hub is well poised to facilitate collaboration between policy makers, healthcare providers and patients, with particular focus on the needs of childbearing families in underserved and historically excluded communities.
PMID: 35320452
ISSN: 1573-6628
CID: 5200542

Veteran-Reported Receipt of Prepregnancy Care: Data from the Examining Contraceptive Use and Unmet Need (ECUUN) Study

Quinn, Deirdre A; Edmonds, Stephanie W; Zhao, Xinhua; Borrero, Sonya; Ryan, Ginny L; Zephyrin, Laurie C; Callegari, Lisa S
OBJECTIVES/OBJECTIVE:To identify the prevalence of women Veterans reporting receipt of counseling about health optimization prior to pregnancy, topics most frequently discussed, and factors associated with receipt of this care. METHODS:We analyzed data from a nationally representative, cross-sectional telephone survey of women Veterans (n = 2302) ages 18-45 who used VA for primary care in the previous year. Our sample included women who were (1) currently pregnant or trying to become pregnant, (2) not currently trying but planning for pregnancy in the future, or (3) unsure of pregnancy intention. Multivariable logistic regression was used to examine adjusted associations of patient- and provider-level factors with receipt of any counseling about health optimization prior to pregnancy (prepregnancy counseling) and with counseling on specific topics. RESULTS:Among 512 women who were considering or unsure about pregnancy, fewer than half (49%) reported receiving any prepregnancy counseling from a VA provider in the past year. For those who did, the most frequently discussed topics included healthy weight (29%), medication safety (27%), smoking (27%), and folic acid use before pregnancy (27%). Factors positively associated with receipt of prepregnancy counseling include history of mental health conditions (aOR = 1.96, 95% CI: 1.28, 3.00) and receipt of primary care within a dedicated women's health clinic (aOR = 2.07, 95% CI: 1.35, 3.18), whereas factors negatively associated include far-future and unsure pregnancy intentions (aOR = 0.35, 95% CI: 0.17, 0.71 and aOR = 0.33, 95% CI: 0.16, 0.70, respectively). CONCLUSIONS FOR PRACTICE/UNASSIGNED:Routine assessment of pregnancy preferences in primary care could identify individuals to whom counseling about health optimization prior to pregnancy can be offered to promote patient-centered family planning care.
PMID: 33929654
ISSN: 1573-6628
CID: 4853722

Measuring Female Veterans' Prepregnancy Wellness Using Department of Veterans Affairs' Health Record Data

Quinn, Deirdre A; Mor, Maria K; Sileanu, Florentina E; Zhao, Xinhua; Callegari, Lisa S; Zephyrin, Laurie C; Frayne, Daniel J; Borrero, Sonya
OBJECTIVE:To estimate the feasibility of using measures developed by the Clinical Workgroup of the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative to assess women's prepregnancy wellness in a large health care system. METHODS:We examined Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) national administrative data, including inpatient, outpatient, fee-basis, laboratory, pharmacy, and screening data for female veterans aged 18-45 who had at least one pregnancy outcome (ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, and live birth) during fiscal years 2010-2015 and a VA primary care visit within 1 year before last menstrual period (LMP). LMP was estimated from gestational age at the time of pregnancy outcome, then used as a reference point to assess eight prepregnancy indicators from the Workgroup consensus measures (eg, 3 or 12 months before LMP). RESULTS:We identified 19,839 pregnancy outcomes from 16,034 female veterans. Most (74.9%) pregnancies ended in live birth; 22.6% resulted in spontaneous abortion or ectopic pregnancy, and 0.5% in stillbirth. More than one third (39.2%) of pregnancies had no documentation of prenatal care within 14 weeks of LMP. Nearly one third (31.2%) of pregnancies occurred in women with obesity. Among pregnancies with a recent relevant screening, 29.2% were positive for smoking and 28.4% for depression. More than half (57.4%) of pregnancies in women with preexisting diabetes did not have documentation of optimal glycemic control. Absence of sexually transmitted infection screening in the year before or within 3 months of LMP was high. Documentation of prenatal folic acid use was also high. Exposure in the same timeframe to six classes of teratogenic medications was low. CONCLUSION/CONCLUSIONS:Despite limitations of administrative data, monitoring measures of prepregnancy wellness can provide benchmarks for improving women's health across health care systems and communities. Areas for intervention to improve female veterans' prepregnancy wellness include healthy weight, optimizing control of diabetes before pregnancy, and improved use and documentation of key prepregnancy health screenings.
PMID: 33543894
ISSN: 1873-233x
CID: 4776692

Contributors to Racial Disparities in Minimally Invasive Hysterectomy in the US Department of Veterans Affairs

Katon, Jodie G; Bossick, Andrew S; Doll, Kemi M; Fortney, John; Gray, Kristen E; Hebert, Paul; Lynch, Kristine E; Ma, Erica W; Washington, Donna L; Zephyrin, Laurie; Callegari, Lisa S
BACKGROUND:Minimally invasive hysterectomy for fibroids decreases recovery time and risk of postoperative complications compared with abdominal hysterectomy. Within Veterans Affair (VA), black women with uterine fibroids are less likely to receive a minimally invasive hysterectomy than white women. OBJECTIVE:To quantify the contributions of patient, facility, temporal and geographic factors to VA black-white disparity in minimally invasive hysterectomy. RESEARCH DESIGN/METHODS:A cross-sectional study. SUBJECTS/METHODS:Veterans with fibroids and hysterectomy performed in VA between October 1, 2012 and September 30, 2015. MEASURES/METHODS:Hysterectomy mode was defined using ICD-9 codes as minimally invasive (laparoscopic, vaginal, or robotic-assisted) versus abdominal. The authors estimated a logistic regression model with minimally invasive hysterectomy modeled as a function of 4 sets of factors: sociodemographic characteristics other than race, health risk factors, facility, and temporal and geographic factors. Using decomposition techniques, systematically substituting each white woman's characteristics for each black woman's characteristics, then recalculating the predicted probability of minimally invasive hysterectomy for black women for each possible combination of factors, we quantified the contribution of each set of factors to observed disparities in minimally invasive hysterectomy. RESULTS:Among 1255 veterans with fibroids who had a hysterectomy at a VA, 61% of black women and 39% of white women had an abdominal hysterectomy. Our models indicated there were 99 excess abdominal hysterectomies among black women. The majority (n=77) of excess abdominal hysterectomies were unexplained by measured sociodemographic factors beyond race, health risk factors, facility, and temporal or geographic trends. CONCLUSION/CONCLUSIONS:Closer examination of the equity of VA gynecology care and ways in which the VA can work to ensure equitable care for all women veterans is necessary.
PMID: 31730567
ISSN: 1537-1948
CID: 4187072

Understanding Women Veterans' Family Planning Counseling Experiences and Preferences to Inform Patient-Centered Care

Callegari, Lisa S; Tartaglione, Erica V; Magnusson, Sara L; Nelson, Karin M; Arteburn, David E; Szarka, Jackie; Zephyrin, Laurie; Borrero, Sonya
BACKGROUND:Women veterans' unique experiences in the military and burden of health comorbidities increase their risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes and may influence their counseling needs related to planning or preventing pregnancy. We investigated women veterans' experiences of family planning counseling in the military and Veterans Affairs (VA) health care systems as well as their counseling preferences. METHODS:We conducted 32 qualitative interviews among women veterans ages 18-44 years receiving primary care at the VA Puget Sound or VA Pittsburgh health care systems between March and June 2016 to explore their experiences and preferences related to counseling about pregnancy goals and planning and contraception. Transcripts were analyzed using inductive and deductive content analysis, and key themes were identified. RESULTS:Nearly all participants described negative experiences in family planning counseling encounters in the military and/or VA, including perceptions of gender-based discrimination and pressure to choose certain contraceptive methods, perceived judgment of their reproductive choices, and a lack of continuity with providers. Some women also reported positive experiences in family planning encounters in the VA, including feeling respected, receiving comprehensive information about options, and having their perspectives and concerns elicited. Counseling preferences that emerged included that providers initiate and validate family planning discussions, establish trust and avoid judgment, elicit women's individual preferences, and engage them as equal partners in decision making. CONCLUSIONS:Women veterans reported a spectrum of negative and positive experiences in family planning encounters in the military and VA that, in conjunction with their preferences, provide key insights for patient-centered reproductive health care in VA.
PMID: 30981559
ISSN: 1878-4321
CID: 3815112

Associations between Race/Ethnicity, Uterine Fibroids, and Minimally Invasive Hysterectomy in the VA Healthcare System

Callegari, Lisa S; Katon, Jodie G; Gray, Kristen E; Doll, Kemi; Pauk, Sara; Lynch, Kristine E; Uchendu, Uchenna S; Zephyrin, Laurie; Gardella, Carolyn
BACKGROUND:In the general population, Black and Latina women are less likely to undergo minimally invasive hysterectomy than White women, which may be related to racial/ethnic variation in fibroid prevalence and characteristics. Whether similar differences exist in the Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System (VA) is unknown. METHODS:Using VA clinical and administrative data, we identified all women veterans undergoing hysterectomy for benign indications in fiscal years 2012-2014. We identified hysterectomy route (laparoscopic with/without robot-assist, vaginal, abdominal) by International Classification of Diseases, 9th edition, codes. We used multinomial logistic regression to estimate associations of race/ethnicity with hysterectomy route and tested whether associations varied by fibroid diagnosis using an interaction term. Models adjusted for age, income, body mass index, gynecologic diagnoses, medical comorbidities, whether procedure was performed or paid for by VA, geographic region, and fiscal year. RESULTS:Among 2,744 identified hysterectomies, 53% were abdominal, 29% laparoscopic, and 18% vaginal. In multinomial models, racial/ethnic differences were present among veterans with but not without fibroid diagnoses (p value for interaction < .001). Among veterans with fibroids, Black veterans were less likely than White veterans to have minimally invasive hysterectomy (laparoscopic vs. abdominal relative risk ratio [RRR], 0.52; 95% CI, 0.38-0.72; vaginal vs. abdominal RRR, 0.58; 95% CI, 0.43-0.73). Latina veterans were as likely as White veterans to have laparoscopic as abdominal hysterectomy (RRR, 1.34; 95% CI, 0.87-2.07) and less likely to have vaginal than abdominal hysterectomy (RRR, 0.32; 95% CI, 0.15-0.69). CONCLUSIONS:Receipt of minimally invasive hysterectomy among women veterans with fibroids varied by race/ethnicity. Further investigation of the underlying mechanisms and potential interventions to increase minimally invasive hysterectomy among minority women veterans is needed.
PMID: 30293778
ISSN: 1878-4321
CID: 3334792

Infertility Services for Veterans: Policies, Challenges, and Opportunities

Edmonds, Stephanie W; Zephyrin, Laurie C; Christy, Alicia; Ryan, Ginny L
Infertility prevalence and care needs among male and female Veterans are understudied topics. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical benefits package covers full infertility evaluation and many infertility treatments for Veterans but not, by law, for their spouses. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is also specifically excluded from this medical benefits package by regulation. Congress passed a law in 2016 that allowed VHA to provide IVF to Veterans and their legal spouses, and broader infertility benefits to the legal spouse, if the Veteran has a service-connected condition associated with his or her infertility, with some limitations. As the Veteran population becomes increasingly female, research efforts in reproductive health, including infertility, are expanding and evolving. This includes a nationwide study currently underway examining infertility among male and female Veterans and associations with military-related trauma, such as injury, posttraumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, and toxin exposure. In this review, we describe the state of the science and policy on infertility care in the VHA along with challenges and opportunities that exist within the VHA system.
PMID: 31185513
ISSN: 1526-4564
CID: 4026812

Reproductive Health of Women Veterans: A Systematic Review of the Literature from 2008 to 2017

Katon, Jodie G; Zephyrin, Laurie; Meoli, Anne; Hulugalle, Avanthi; Bosch, Jeane; Callegari, Lisa; Galvan, Ileana V; Gray, Kristen E; Haeger, Kristin O; Hoffmire, Claire; Levis, Silvina; Ma, Erica W; Mccabe, Jennifer E; Nillni, Yael I; Pineles, Suzanne L; Reddy, Shivani M; Savitz, David A; Shaw, Jonathan G; Patton, Elizabeth W
The literature on the reproductive health and healthcare of women Veterans has increased dramatically, though there are important gaps. This article aims to synthesize recent literature on reproductive health and healthcare of women Veterans. We updated a literature search to identify manuscripts published between 2008 and July 1, 2017. We excluded studies that were not original research, only included active-duty women, or had few women Veterans in their sample. Manuscripts were reviewed using a standardized abstraction form. We identified 52 manuscripts. Nearly half (48%) of the new manuscripts addressed contraception and preconception care (n = 15) or pregnancy (n = 10). The pregnancy and family planning literature showed that (1) contraceptive use and unintended pregnancy among women Veterans using VA healthcare is similar to that of the general population; (2) demand for VA maternity care is increasing; and (3) women Veterans using VA maternity care are a high-risk population for adverse pregnancy outcomes. A recurrent finding across topics was that history of lifetime sexual assault and mental health conditions were highly prevalent among women Veterans and associated with a wide variety of adverse reproductive health outcomes across the life course. The literature on women Veterans' reproductive health is rapidly expanding, but remains largely observational. Knowledge gaps persist in the areas of sexually transmitted infections, infertility, and menopause.
PMID: 31003246
ISSN: 1526-4564
CID: 3834672

Women Veterans' Experiences with Department of Veterans Affairs Maternity Care: Current Successes and Targets for Improvement

Katon, Jodie G; Ma, Erica W; Sayre, George; Zephyrin, Laurie C; Cordasco, Kristina M; Yano, Elizabeth M; Fortney, John C
INTRODUCTION/BACKGROUND:Little is known about women veterans' experiences accessing and using Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) maternity care, which is nearly all purchased from non-VA providers. OBJECTIVE:To understand women veterans' experiences, preferences, and challenges using VA maternity care. METHODS:We conducted 27 semistructured interviews with women veterans who used VA maternity care during fiscal year 2016. To capture a wide variety of experiences, we randomly sampled veterans from urban and rural VA facilities with higher and lower volumes of VA paid deliveries. All interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were analyzed using inductive and deductive content analysis. RESULTS:Themes included experiences initiating prenatal care, obtaining prenatal and lactation classes, the role of maternity care coordinators, mental health care, and satisfaction with care. Women described challenges obtaining authorization for care and establishing care with non-VA providers. First-time mothers appreciated the availability of prenatal and lactation classes. VA maternity care coordinators helped women veterans to navigate the challenges related to VA maternity care, ranging from finding non-VA providers to billing. The majority of participants were engaged with mental health care before pregnancy and continued this care during pregnancy. Women's satisfaction with VA maternity care was impacted by access to supportive, knowledgeable providers; care coordinators; woman-centered labor and delivery experiences; and billing issues. CONCLUSIONS:Our findings provide a portrait of the current state of VA maternity care from the perspectives of women veterans and highlight areas, such as care coordination and woman-centered models for labor and delivery, that can improve satisfaction with care.
PMID: 30279054
ISSN: 1878-4321
CID: 3327952