Updates from the VA Office of Health Equity

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July 24, 2017

Register for July FHEA Cyberseminar – Using Effective Communication of Healthcare Disparities and Vulnerabilities to Empower Professionals, Veterans and Stakeholders

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Join the VA Office of Health Equity for July’s Focus on Health Equity and Action Cyberseminar session. The session will focus on the EMPOWER research project and the Make the Connection video project targeting vulnerable Veteran groups. Presenters will focus on effective strategies for communicating about health disparities and other health equity issues among Veterans and healthcare professionals.

Using Effective Communication of Healthcare Disparities and Vulnerabilities to Empower Professionals, Veterans and Stakeholders

Thursday, July 27, 2017
3:00 – 4:00pm EST


Panelist will discuss the following:

  1. Key findings of the EMPOWER project which was designed to understand how to effectively communicate with healthcare professionals about healthcare disparities;

  2. Using tailored peer to peer Veteran stories of recovery to connect Veterans, family members, friends, and other supporters with information, resources, and solutions to issues affecting their lives; and

  3. Operational and research partnerships executed by the Office of Health Equity to advance the goals of the VA Health Equity Action Plan.  

Confirmed Speakers

  • Diana Burgess, PhD
    Health Science Researcher, VA Minneapolis Healthcare System, Minneapolis, MN

  • Wendy Tenhula, PhD
    Deputy Chief Consultant for Specialty MH, VA Central Office, Washington, DC 

  • Uchenna S. Uchendu, MD
    Chief Officer, Office of Health Equity, VA Central Office, Washington, DC

Background Resources


August Focus on Health Equity and Action Cyberseminar

The VA Office of Health Equity will not be hosting a Focus on Health Equity and Action Cyberseminar for the month of August. In the meantime, please check out past sessions of the Focus on Health Equity and Action Cyberseminar. Please stay tuned for September’s session.

View Past Sessions

Voices from the Field: VA Office of Health Equity Wants to Hear from You

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Photo caption: OHE Chief Officer engages researchers and stakeholders at the 2017 HSR&D/QUERI National Conference

What are your ideas and/or suggestions for tackling disparities among Veterans with chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity?

The VA Office of Health Equity oversees agency efforts to champion health equity efforts on behalf of Veterans—especially those vulnerable Veterans who experience health and healthcare disparities because of their membership in patient groups historically and currently linked to social or economic disadvantage.

We often ask during our engagement meetings for ideas and/or suggestions for tackling disparities among Veterans. Here are some recent suggestions that we have received from the field for addressing chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity among Veterans:

  • Increase Healthy Teaching Kitchen programming to help address disparities in diabetes and obesity.
  • Teach culturally relevant healthy cooking. 
  • Expose Veterans to healthy low cost foods as many Veterans do not have much exposure to a variety of local fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Provide training to providers and clinicians on weight discrimination in health care.
  • Develop health promotion messages that underscore the following message: taking care of yourself allows you to take care of the others that you love.
  • Increase the availability of education, programs and services for families and support group to support Veterans.
  • Engage community health workers to improve Veteran access, engagement, and outcomes.
  • Create partnerships with the Department of Defense and community wellness organizations like YMCA to leverage peer support for Veteran fitness and wellbeing.  
  • Examine the contribution of VA provider communication in diabetes and hypertension counseling.
  • Measure provider implicit bias to determine how this affects patient outcomes.
  • Work with VINCI to develop a national interactive dashboard that facilities can use to track disparities at their individual facilities in real time.

The VA Health Equity Action Plan encourages incorporating the innovative ideas and input of all users in order to encourage bottom up approach while maintaining a strong connection to the overarching goals of the VA. Now it is your turn. The VA Office of Health Equity wants to hear from Veterans, health professionals, and other stakeholders.

What are your ideas and/or suggestions for tackling disparities among Veterans with chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity?

Email your suggestions to healthequity@va.gov and help shape how the VA addresses Veteran disparities.

Email OHE Your Ideas & Suggestions

New Widget from the Department of Health and Human Services for Exploring Health Disparities

The HHS Office of Minority Health , CDC National Center for Health Statistics  and HHS Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion  are pleased to announce the release of a new health disparities data widget. The widget provides an easy way to find health disparities data related to the Healthy People 2020 objectives for the Leading Health Indicators (LHIs). LHIs are critical health issues that, when addressed, will help reduce the leading causes of death and preventable illnesses. 

The widget provides charts and graphs of disparities data at your fingertips. Use the widget to browse data by:

  • Disparity type—including disability, education, income, location, race and ethnicity, and sex
  • Leading Health Indicator

HHS Disparities Widget

The above graphic shows suicide disparities data by race and ethnicity for 2015 from the recently released data widget.


Suicide prevention is a top priority for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA Factsheet).

Veteran Crisis Line

Did you know that American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) Veterans are at increased risk for suicide? According to the latest US Census, AIAN represent less than 1% of the US population. However, rates of suicide for AIAN are higher than those of other racial and ethnic groups [Source, Source].

According to the Veteran Outreach Toolkit: Preventing Veteran Suicide is Everyone’s Business (A Community Call to Action):

American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities have troubling suicide rates. Outreach events for AI/AN communities should be a community priority to increase wellness, decrease stigma, and prevent suicide. Engaging leaders within the AI/AN communities, tribes, schools, and reservations is key to sharing resources. Building public health campaigns targeting AI/AN communities is a priority for organizations such as the Indian Health Service, National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention,  and Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

We hope this new tool helps inform your programs, policies, research, and other actions related to achieving health equity.

Explore New Health Disparities Widget