February 1, 2013
WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs joins the nation in celebrating National Wear Red Day today to educate women Veterans about the risks of heart disease—the leading cause of death in American women and women Veterans. VA employees are encouraged to wear red to symbolize their awareness.
“VA is dedicated to providing the highest quality care for women Veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “Through VA’s collaboration with the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement, we are prioritizing heart disease prevention and outreach to women Veterans.”
The VA-American Heart Association (AHA) collaboration launched in May 2012, enabling both organizations to work together to maximize their outreach and education efforts.
Cardiovascular disease frequently affects the fastest-growing demographic in VA’s female patient population—those who served in the Vietnam, post-Vietnam, and Gulf War I eras. Nearly one-third of women Veterans under VA care have high cholesterol levels or high blood pressure. To address this issue, VA has been aggressive in its fight against heart disease in women and has worked to eliminate gender disparities in prevention and treatment of cardiovascular risk factors. Two recent VA reports show VA has eliminated significant gender disparities in high blood pressure and diabetes and has reduced gender disparities in other areas.
In addition, a VA cardiovascular workgroup is examining ways to improve women Veterans’ heart health. VA also held a Healthy Heart event and expo outside its Washington headquarters in September for VA employees, many of whom are Veterans, and the public. VA is encouraging facilities to coordinate similar events locally.
“Addressing issues like cardiovascular disease head-on ties directly with our focus on personalized, proactive care for VA patients,” said Undersecretary for Health Robert Petzel, M.D. “We will continue to exceed expectations in this and other critical issues facing women Veterans.”
Women serve in all branches of the military, representing 15 percent of today’s active duty military and nearly 18 percent of National Guard and Reserve forces. Women are the fastest growing cohort within the Veteran community. Of the 22.7 million living Veterans, more than 1.8 million are women. They comprise nearly 8 percent of the total Veteran population and more than 6 percent of all Veterans who use VA health care services. On Jan. 25, VA announced the award of over 30 grants totaling more than $2 million to VA facilities for projects that will improve emergency health care services for women Veterans, expand women’s health education programs for VA staff, and offer telehealth programs to female Veterans in rural areas.
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