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Who are the women and men in Veterans Health Administration’s current spinal cord injury population?

Keywords: aging population , chronic diseases , demographics , high utilization , paralysis , quality of life , spinal cord injury , Veterans , Veterans Health Administration , women’s health

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Abstract:

Spinal cord injury (SCI) care is a high priority for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Aging Veterans, new cases of SCI from recent conflicts, and increasing numbers of women Veterans have likely changed the profile of the VHA SCI population. This study characterizes the current Veteran population with SCI with emphasis on healthcare utilization and women Veterans. We analyzed VHA administrative data from 2002–2003 and 2007–2008, analyzing composition, demographics, and healthcare use. The population is mostly male (>97%) and largely between 45 and 64 years old. Over 30% are over the age of 65. They are frequent users of healthcare, with an average of 21 visits per year. Women Veterans with SCI form a small but distinct subpopulation, being younger and less likely to be married and having a higher burden of disease. We must understand how the VHA population with SCI is changing to anticipate and provide the best care for these complex patients.

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