Iowa City Virginia Health System Women’s Health |  VA Iowa City Healthcare
Iowa City Virginia Health System Women’s Health |  VA Iowa City Healthcare

We would be remiss if we did not discuss our Women Veterans Health Programs in Iowa City VA during Women’s History Month, as women Veterans are the fastest growing group in our Veteran population.

Iowa City Virginia Health Care System (ICVAHCS) provides comprehensive care to 4,485 female veterans. Of these veterans, 56% are 56 years of age or younger, and 56% live in rural or very rural areas in Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri counties. The Women’s Health Center (WHC), located at the Iowa City Virginia Medical Center (ICVAMC), is designed to provide a quiet and comfortable space for our patients. We provide primary care for women including reproductive health, cervical and breast cancer screenings, metals health services and social work assessments. Our specialty services specifically for female veterans include screening and management of chronic conditions and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), maternity care coordination, prosthetic and sensory aids (PSA), therapy referrals, and home and long-term care for those who meet specific requirements.

“Men and women have different health care needs based on their sex at birth,” said Women Veterans Program Manager Bonnie Konkowski. “There are anatomical, biological and behavioral differences between the sexes. When gender at birth is not considered for basic health care, it leaves a gap in health care. WHC at ICVAMC ensures that women veterans receive high quality and equitable care, something that was not addressed until 1923.

When asked why it is so important to have a program dedicated specifically to the health of women veterans, Konkowski says, “Simply put, they are the chief medical officers in their own home. It is important for women to consider their own health needs. She cites a 2022 Harvard Business School article stating that women are 76 percent more likely than men to have visited a doctor in the past year, control 80 percent of home health care decisions, and are more likely to be the primary caregivers for the family, making appointments and making health care purchasing decisions on behalf of partners, their children and parents.

“Our VA has designated primary care providers for women’s health. They go through additional training and education to meet the specific needs of women. The Office of Women’s Health has made it a requirement for every VA to have a Women Veterans Program Manager to ensure that all things related to women in health care are measured, monitored and addressed. The VA health care system as a whole is leading advances in women’s health care to help close the gender health care gap.” Konkowski said.

Other areas addressed in the Women Veterans Program are sexual trauma and harassment. A 2016 VA study on military sexual trauma (MST) said 41 percent of female veterans experienced sexual harassment and 10 percent experienced sexual assault during their military service. The study claims that female veterans are almost 10 times more likely to experience sexual harassment or assault than male veterans. The National Sexual Assault Resource Center refines these numbers further to say that nearly 81% of women nationwide report experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in their lifetime. For services related to sexual trauma, veterans must not have a service-connected disability rating. In fact, women veterans can receive MST-related care even if they are not eligible for other VA services.

VA is committed to providing high-quality health care to all women veterans as part of their benefits. Women veterans are racially and ethnically diverse; recent data show that 43% of women who use VHA health services belong to a racial or ethnic minority group. VA understands that health care is shaped by language, culture and other social factors, which is why we strive to provide culturally appropriate health care initiatives to improve the Veterans’ experience and health outcomes. From training VA health care providers to consider individual cultures, values ​​and experiences to recognizing holistic health beliefs and preferences for traditional healing methods, we are honored to provide you with the care you need.

For more information about women’s health services offered at ICCVAHCS or to enroll in health care, please visit our Virginia Women’s Health Services website.

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