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Disparities in Health Behaviors and Chronic Conditions in Health Care Providers in the Veterans Health Administration

Schult, Tamara M. MPH; Awosika, Ebi R. MD, MPH; Hodgson, Michael J. MD, MPH; Dyrenforth, Sue PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: October 2011 - Volume 53 - Issue 10 - p 1134–1145
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31822b8379
Original Articles

Objective: To determine baseline prevalence of health behaviors and chronic health conditions in Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employees and highlight disparities by occupation group.

Methods: There were 29,834 responses to the survey. Age-standardized prevalence estimates for VHA employees were compared to national estimates from BRFSS surveys. The VHA estimates were analyzed for physicians and dentists; physician assistants and nurse practitioners; registered nurses; licensed practical nurses and nursing assistants; other clinical; nonclinical; and wage grade staff. Multilevel regression explored the effect of worksite.

Results: The VHA employees have higher rates of unhealthy behaviors and chronic health conditions than US adults, except for smoking. Results illustrated significant disparities between occupation groups by demographics and variability by worksite.

Conclusions: Veterans Health Administration's population appears less healthy than the US general population. Disparities between occupation groups support the establishment of targeted health promotion programs, with attention paid to differences in local culture.

From the Veterans Health Administration, Office of Public Health (Ms Schult and Drs Awosika and Hodgson) Washington, DC; University of Minnesota School of Medicine (Dr Awosika) and School of Public Health (Ms Schult), Minneapolis, Minn; and National Center for Organizational Development (Dr Dyrenforth), Cincinnati, Ohio.

Address correspondence to: Tamara M. Schult, MPH, Veterans Health Administration, One Veterans Dr, Bldg 68 Room 138 (V68) Minneapolis, MN 55417. E-mail:

©2011The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine