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1.  Accounting for the Hierarchical Structure in Veterans Health Administration Data: Differences in Healthcare Utilization between Men and Women Veterans 
Women currently constitute 15% of active United States of America military service personnel, and this proportion is expected to double in the next 5 years. Previous research has shown that healthcare utilization and costs differ in women US Veterans Health Administration (VA) patients compared to men. However, none have accounted for the potential effects of clustering on their estimates of healthcare utilization. US Women Veterans are more likely to serve in specific military branches (e.g. Army), components (e.g. National Guard), and ranks (e.g. officer) than men. These factors may confer different risk and protection that can affect subsequent healthcare needs. Our study investigates the effects of accounting for the hierarchical structure of data on estimates of the association between gender and VA healthcare utilization. The sample consisted of data on 406,406 Veterans obtained from VA's Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom roster provided by Defense Manpower Data Center — Contingency Tracking System Deployment File. We compared three statistical models, ordinary, fixed and random effects hierarchical logistic regression, in order to assess the association of gender with healthcare utilization, controlling for branch of service, component, rank, age, race, and marital status. Gender was associated with utilization in ordinary logistic and, but not in fixed effects hierarchical logistic or random effects hierarchical logistic regression models. This point out that incomplete inference could be drawn by ignoring the military structure that may influence combat exposure and subsequent healthcare needs. Researchers should consider modeling VA data using methods that account for the potential clustering effect of hierarchy.
doi:10.6000/1929-6029.2013.02.02.03
PMCID: PMC4047985  PMID: 24910720
Hierarchical Logistics Models; Random Effects; GLIMMIX; GENMOD; Generalized Estimating Equations; Gender Differences; Veterans
2.  Physiologic Frailty and Fragility Fracture in HIV-Infected Male Veterans 
Frailty, as measured by the Veterans Aging Cohort Study Index, is an important predictor of fragility fracture in the context of established fracture risk factors. Anemia and increasing age drive this association in a male veteran population.
Background. The Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS) Index is associated with all-cause mortality in individuals infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It is also associated with markers of inflammation and may thus reflect physiologic frailty. This analysis explores the association between physiologic frailty, as assessed by the VACS Index, and fragility fracture.
Methods. HIV-infected men from VACS were included. We identified hip, vertebral, and upper arm fractures using ICD-9-CM codes. We used Cox regression models to assess fragility fracture risk factors including the VACS Index, its components (age, hepatitis C status, FIB-4 score, estimated glomerular filtration rate, hemoglobin, HIV RNA, CD4 count), and previously identified risk factors for fragility fractures.
Results. We included 40 115 HIV-infected male Veterans. They experienced 588 first fragility fractures over 6.0 ± 3.9 years. The VACS Index score (hazard ratio [HR], 1.15; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.11–1.19), white race (HR, 1.92; 95% CI, 1.63–2.28), body mass index (HR, 0.94; 95% CI, .92–.96), alcohol-related diagnoses (HR, 1.65; 95% CI, 1.26–2.17), cerebrovascular disease (HR, 1.95; 95% CI, 1.14–3.33), proton pump inhibitor use (HR, 1.87; 95% CI, 1.54–2.27), and protease inhibitor use (HR, 1.25; 95% CI, 1.04–1.50) were associated with fracture risk. Components of the VACS Index score most strongly associated with fracture risk were age (HR, 1.40; 95% CI, 1.27–1.54), log HIV RNA (HR, 0.91; 95% CI, .88–.94), and hemoglobin level (HR, 0.82; 95% CI, .78–.86).
Conclusions. Frailty, as measured by the VACS Index, is an important predictor of fragility fractures among HIV-infected male Veterans.
doi:10.1093/cid/cit056
PMCID: PMC3634308  PMID: 23378285
HIV; frailty; fragility fractures; Veterans
3.  The VACS Index Accurately Predicts Mortality and Treatment Response among Multi-Drug Resistant HIV Infected Patients Participating in the Options in Management with Antiretrovirals (OPTIMA) Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92606.
Objectives
The VACS Index is highly predictive of all-cause mortality among HIV infected individuals within the first few years of combination antiretroviral therapy (cART). However, its accuracy among highly treatment experienced individuals and its responsiveness to treatment interventions have yet to be evaluated. We compared the accuracy and responsiveness of the VACS Index with a Restricted Index of age and traditional HIV biomarkers among patients enrolled in the OPTIMA study.
Methods
Using data from 324/339 (96%) patients in OPTIMA, we evaluated associations between indices and mortality using Kaplan-Meier estimates, proportional hazards models, Harrel’s C-statistic and net reclassification improvement (NRI). We also determined the association between study interventions and risk scores over time, and change in score and mortality.
Results
Both the Restricted Index (c = 0.70) and VACS Index (c = 0.74) predicted mortality from baseline, but discrimination was improved with the VACS Index (NRI = 23%). Change in score from baseline to 48 weeks was more strongly associated with survival for the VACS Index than the Restricted Index with respective hazard ratios of 0.26 (95% CI 0.14–0.49) and 0.39(95% CI 0.22–0.70) among the 25% most improved scores, and 2.08 (95% CI 1.27–3.38) and 1.51 (95%CI 0.90–2.53) for the 25% least improved scores.
Conclusions
The VACS Index predicts all-cause mortality more accurately among multi-drug resistant, treatment experienced individuals and is more responsive to changes in risk associated with treatment intervention than an index restricted to age and HIV biomarkers. The VACS Index holds promise as an intermediate outcome for intervention research.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0092606
PMCID: PMC3965438  PMID: 24667813
4.  Agreement Between Electronic Medical Record-based and Self-Administered Pain Numeric Rating Scale: Clinical and Research Implications 
Medical care  2013;51(3):245-250.
Background
Pain screening may improve the quality of care by identifying patients in need of further assessment and management. Many healthcare systems use the numeric rating scale (NRS) for pain screening, and record the score in the patients’ electronic medical record (EMR).
Objective
Determine level of agreement between EMR and patient survey NRS, and whether discrepancies vary by demographic and clinical characteristics.
Methods
We linked survey data from a sample of Veterans receiving care in eight Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities, to EMR data including an NRS collected on the day of the survey in order to compare responses to the NRS question from these two sources. We assessed correlation, agreement on clinical cut-points (e.g. severe), and, using the survey as the gold standard, whether patient characteristics were associated with a discrepancy on moderate-severe pain.
Results
A total of 1,643 participants had a survey and EMR NRS score on the same day. The correlation was 0.56 (95% CI 0.52/0.59), but the mean EMR score was significantly lower than the survey score (1.72 vs. 2.79; p<0.0001). Agreement was moderate (kappa=0.35). Characteristics associated with a increased odds of a discrepancy included: diabetes (adjusted odds ratio (AOR)=1.48), post traumatic stress disorder (AOR=1.59), major depressive disorder (AOR=1.81), other race vs. white (AOR=2.29), and facility in which care was received.
Conclusions
The underestimation of pain using EMR data, especially clinically actionable levels of pain, has important clinical and research implications. Improving the quality of pain care may require better screening.
doi:10.1097/MLR.0b013e318277f1ad
PMCID: PMC3572341  PMID: 23222528
Veterans; pain measurement; electronic medical records
5.  Receipt of Opioid Analgesics by HIV-Infected and Uninfected Patients 
ABSTRACT
BACKGROUND
Opioids are increasingly prescribed, but there are limited data on opioid receipt by HIV status.
OBJECTIVES
To describe patterns of opioid receipt by HIV status and the relationship between HIV status and receiving any, high-dose, and long-term opioids.
DESIGN
Cross-sectional analysis of the Veterans Aging Cohort Study.
PARTICIPANTS
HIV-infected (HIV+) patients receiving Veterans Health Administration care, and uninfected matched controls.
MAIN MEASURES
Pain-related diagnoses were determined using ICD-9 codes. Any opioid receipt was defined as at least one opioid prescription; high-dose was defined as an average daily dose ≥120 mg of morphine equivalents; long-term opioids was defined as ≥90 consecutive days, allowing a 30 day refill gap. Multivariable models were used to assess the relationship between HIV infection and the three outcomes.
KEY RESULTS
Among the HIV+ (n = 23,651) and uninfected (n = 55,097) patients, 31 % of HIV+ and 28 % of uninfected (p < 0.001) received opioids. Among patients receiving opioids, HIV+ patients were more likely to have an acute pain diagnosis (7 % vs. 4 %), but less likely to have a chronic pain diagnosis (53 % vs. 69 %). HIV+ patients received a higher mean daily morphine equivalent dose than uninfected patients (41 mg vs. 37 mg, p = 0.001) and were more likely to receive high-dose opioids (6 % vs. 5 %, p < 0.001). HIV+ patients received fewer days of opioids than uninfected patients (median 44 vs. 60, p < 0.001), and were less likely to receive long-term opioids (31 % vs. 34 %, p < 0.001). In multivariable analysis, HIV+ status was associated with receipt of any opioids (AOR 1.40, 95 % CI 1.35, 1.46) and high-dose opioids (AOR 1.22, 95 % CI 1.07, 1.39), but not long-term opioids (AOR 0.94, 95 % CI 0.88, 1.01).
CONCLUSIONS
Patients with HIV infection are more likely to be prescribed opioids than uninfected individuals, and there is a variable association with pain diagnoses. Efforts to standardize approaches to pain management may be warranted in this highly complex and vulnerable patient population.
doi:10.1007/s11606-012-2189-z
PMCID: PMC3539026  PMID: 22895747
opioid; pain; HIV; narcotics; veterans
6.  Do Patterns of Comorbidity Vary by HIV Status, Age, and HIV Severity? 
Patterns of comorbidity among persons with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are not well described. We compared comorbidity among veterans with and without HIV infection. The sample consisted of 33,420 HIV-infected veterans and 66,840 HIV-uninfected veterans. We identified and clustered 11 comorbid conditions using validated International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision, Clinical Modification codes. We defined multimorbidity as the presence of conditions in all clusters. Models restricted to HIV-infected veterans were adjusted for CD4 cell count and viral load. Comorbidity was common (prevalence, 60%–63%), and prevalence varied by HIV status. Differences remained when the veterans were stratified by age. In multivariable analyses, older HIV-infected veterans were more likely to have substance use disorder and multimorbidity. Renal, vascular, and pulmonary diseases were associated with CD4 cell count <200 cells/mm3; hypertension was associated with CD4 cell count >200 cells/mm3. Comorbidity is the rule, and multimorbidity is common among veterans with HIV infection. Patterns of comorbidity differ substantially by HIV status, age, and HIV severity. Primary care guidelines require adaptation for persons with HIV infection.
doi:10.1086/523577
PMCID: PMC3687553  PMID: 18190322
7.  HIV as an Independent Risk Factor for Incident Lung Cancer 
AIDS (London, England)  2012;26(8):1017-1025.
doi:10.1097/QAD.0b013e328352d1ad
PMCID: PMC3580210  PMID: 22382152
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV); lung cancer; incidence; smoking; immunosuppression; non-AIDS defining malignancy
8.  Hepatic safety and antiretroviral effectiveness in HIV-infected patients receiving naltrexone 
Background
We sought to determine the impact of naltrexone on hepatic enzymes and HIV biomarkers in HIV-infected patients.
Methods
We used data from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study-Virtual Cohort, an electronic database of administrative, pharmacy and laboratory data. We restricted our sample to HIV-infected patients who received an initial oral naltrexone prescription, of at least seven days duration. We examined aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and HIV biomarker (CD4 and HIV RNA) values for the 365 days prior to, during, and for the 365 days post-naltrexone prescription. We also examined cases of liver enzyme elevation (LEE; defined as greater than 5 times baseline ALT or AST or greater than 3.5 times baseline if baseline ALT or AST was greater than or equal to 40 IU/L).
Results
Of 114 HIV-infected individuals, 97% were male, 65% white, 57% Hepatitis C co-infected, median age was 49 years; 89% of the sample had a history of alcohol dependence and 32% had opioid dependence. Median duration of naltrexone prescription was 49 (interquartile range 30–83) days, representing 9,525 person-days of naltrexone use. Mean ALT and AST levels remained below the upper limit of normal. Two cases of LEE occurred. Mean CD4 count remained stable and mean HIV RNA decreased after naltrexone prescription.
Conclusions
In HIV-infected patients, oral naltrexone is rarely associated with clinically significant ALT or AST changes and does not have a negative impact on biologic parameters. Therefore, HIV-infected patients with alcohol or opioid dependence can be treated with naltrexone.
doi:10.1111/j.1530-0277.2011.01601.x
PMCID: PMC3221963  PMID: 21797892
9.  Measuring Performance Directly Using the Veterans Health Administration Electronic Medical Record 
Medical care  2007;45(1):73-79.
Background
Electronic medical records systems (EMR) contain many directly analyzable data fields that may reduce the need for extensive chart review, thus allowing for performance measures to be assessed on a larger proportion of patients in care.
Objective
This study sought to determine the extent to which selected chart review-based clinical performance measures could be accurately replicated using readily available and directly analyzable EMR data.
Methods
A cross-sectional study using full chart review results from the Veterans Health Administration's External Peer Review Program (EPRP) was merged to EMR data.
Results
Over 80% of the data on these selected measures found in chart review was available in a directly analyzable form in the EMR. The extent of missing EMR data varied by site of care (P < 0.01). Among patients on whom both sources of data were available, we found a high degree of correlation between the 2 sources in the measures assessed (correlations of 0.89–0.98) and in the concordance between the measures using performance cut points (kappa: 0.86–0.99). Furthermore, there was little evidence of bias; the differences in values were not clinically meaningful (difference of 0.9 mg/dL for low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, 1.2 mm Hg for systolic blood pressure, 0.3 mm Hg for diastolic, and no difference for HgbA1c).
Conclusions
Directly analyzable data fields in the EMR can accurately reproduce selected EPRP measures on most patients. We found no evidence of systematic differences in performance values among these with and without directly analyzable data in the EMR.
doi:10.1097/01.mlr.0000244510.09001.e5
PMCID: PMC3460379  PMID: 17279023
veterans; quality of care; medical records systems; quality measurement
10.  Alcohol Consumption and Depressive Symptoms Over Time: A Longitudinal Study of Patients With and Without HIV Infection 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2011;117(2-3):158-163.
Background
The impact of alcohol consumption on depressive symptoms over time among patients who do not meet criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence is not known.
Objective
To evaluate the impact of varying levels of alcohol consumption on depressive symptoms over time in patients with and without HIV infection.
Design
We used data from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS). We used generalized estimating equations models to assess the association of alcohol-related categories, as a fixed effect, on the time-varying outcome of depressive symptoms.
Participants
VACS is a prospectively enrolled cohort study of HIV-infected patients and age-, race- and site-matched HIV uninfected patients.
Main Measures
Hazardous, binge drinking, alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence were defined using standard criteria. Depressive symptoms were measured by the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9).
Key Results
Among the 2446 patients, 19% reported past but not current alcohol use, 50% non-hazardous drinking, 8% hazardous drinking, 14% binge drinking, and 10% met criteria for alcohol or dependence. At baseline, depressive symptoms were higher in hazardous and binge drinkers than in past and non-hazardous drinkers (OR=2.65; CI=1.50/4.69; p<.001) and similar to those with abuse or dependence. There was no difference in the association between alcohol-related category and depressive symptoms by HIV status (OR=0.99; CI=.83/1.18; p=.88). Hazardous drinkers were 2.53 (95% CI = 1.34/4.81) times and binge drinkers were 2.14 (95% CI = 1.49/3.07) times more likely to meet criteria for depression when compared to non-hazardous drinkers. The associations between alcohol consumption and depressive symptoms persisted over three years and were responsive to changes in alcohol-related categories.
Conclusions
HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected hazardous and binge drinkers have depressive symptoms that are more severe than non-hazardous and non-drinkers and similar to those with alcohol abuse or dependence. Patients who switch to a higher or lower level of drinking experience a similar alteration in their depressive symptoms. Interventions to decrease unhealthy alcohol consumption may improve depressive symptoms.
doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2011.01.014
PMCID: PMC3113463  PMID: 21345624
Alcohol drinking; Alcoholism; Depression; Depressive disorder; HIV; Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome
11.  Food Insecurity is Associated with Poor Virologic Response among HIV-Infected Patients Receiving Antiretroviral Medications 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2011;26(9):1012-1018.
ABSTRACT
BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE
Food insecurity negatively impacts HIV disease outcomes in international settings. No large scale U.S. studies have investigated the association between food insecurity and severity of HIV disease or the mechanism of this possible association. The objective of this study was to examine the impact of food insecurity on HIV disease outcomes in a large cohort of HIV-infected patients receiving antiretroviral medications.
DESIGN
This is a cross-sectional study.
PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING
Participants were HIV-infected patients enrolled in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study between 2002–2008 who were receiving antiretroviral medications.
MAIN MEASUREMENTS
Participants reporting “concern about having enough food for you or your family in the past 30 days” were defined as food insecure. Using multivariable logistic regression, we explored the association between food insecurity and both low CD4 counts (<200 cells/μL) and unsuppressed HIV-1 RNA (>500 copies/mL). We then performed mediation analysis to examine whether antiretroviral adherence or body mass index mediates the observed associations.
KEY RESULTS
Among 2353 HIV-infected participants receiving antiretroviral medications, 24% reported food insecurity. In adjusted analyses, food insecure participants were more likely to have an unsuppressed HIV-1 RNA (AOR 1.37, 95% CI 1.09, 1.73) compared to food secure participants. Mediation analysis revealed that neither antiretroviral medication adherence nor body mass index contributes to the association between food insecurity and unsuppressed HIV-1 RNA. Food insecurity was not independently associated with low CD4 counts.
CONCLUSIONS
Among HIV-infected participants receiving antiretroviral medications, food insecurity is associated with unsuppressed viral load and may render treatment less effective. Longitudinal studies are needed to test the potential causal association between food insecurity, lack of virologic suppression, and additional HIV outcomes.
doi:10.1007/s11606-011-1723-8
PMCID: PMC3157515  PMID: 21573882
food insecurity; HIV; patients; antiretrovirals
12.  Non-medical use of prescription opioids and pain in Veterans with and without HIV 
Pain  2011;152(5):1133-1138.
Few studies have systematically evaluated non medical use of prescription opioids (NMU) among United States’ military Veterans, those who report pain, and those with HIV. An increased understanding of the factors associated with NMU may help providers to balance maintaining patient access to prescription opioids for legitimate medical reasons and reducing the risks of addiction. We analyzed self-report data and electronic medical and pharmacy record data from 4,122 participants in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study. Bivariate associations were analyzed using chi-square tests, t-tests, and median tests and multivariable associations were assessed using logistic regression. Median participant age was 52 years; 95% were men; 65% were black, and 53% were HIV infected. NMU was reported by 13% of participants. In multivariable analysis, NMU was associated with being Hispanic (AOR 1.8); aged 40–44 (AOR 1.6); Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test score ≥20 (AOR 2.0); drug use disorder (AOR 1.9); opioid use disorder (AOR 2.7); past month cigarette use (AOR 1.3); receiving a past-year VHA opioid prescription (AOR 1.9); hepatitis C (AOR 1.5); and pain interference (AOR 1.1). Being overweight (AOR 0.6) or obese (AOR 0.5) and having a higher 12-Item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-12) Mental Component Summary (AOR 0.98) were associated with less NMU. Patients with and without NMU did not differ on HIV status or SF-12 Physical Component Summary. Veterans in care have a high prevalence of NMU that is associated with substance use, medical status, and pain interference, but not HIV status.
doi:10.1016/j.pain.2011.01.038
PMCID: PMC3086805  PMID: 21354703
Analgesics; Opioids; Pain; HIV; Veterans
13.  HIV Infection and Risk for Incident Pulmonary Diseases in the Combination Antiretroviral Therapy Era 
Rationale: In aging HIV-infected populations comorbid diseases are important determinants of morbidity and mortality. Pulmonary diseases have not been systematically assessed in the combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) era.
Objectives: To determine the incidence of pulmonary diseases in HIV-infected persons compared with HIV-uninfected persons.
Methods: We analyzed data from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study Virtual Cohort, consisting of 33,420 HIV-infected veterans and 66,840 age, sex, race and ethnicity, and site-matched HIV-uninfected veterans. Using Poisson regression, incidence rates and adjusted incidence rate ratios were calculated to determine the association of HIV with pulmonary disease. The Virtual Cohort was merged with the 1999 Veterans Large Health Survey to adjust for self-reported smoking in a nested sample (14%).
Measurements and Main Results: Incident chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, pulmonary hypertension, and pulmonary fibrosis, as well as pulmonary infections, were significantly more likely among HIV-infected patients compared with uninfected patients in adjusted analyses, although rates of asthma did not differ by HIV status. Bacterial pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were the two most common incident pulmonary diseases, whereas opportunistic pneumonias were less common. Absolute rates of most pulmonary diseases increased with age, although the relative differences between those with and without HIV infection were greatest in younger persons. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma, as well as pulmonary infections, were less likely in those with lower HIV RNA levels and use of ART at baseline.
Conclusions: Pulmonary diseases among HIV-infected patients receiving care within the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System in the combination ART era reflect a substantial burden of non–AIDS-defining and chronic conditions, many of which are associated with aging.
doi:10.1164/rccm.201006-0836OC
PMCID: PMC3266024  PMID: 20851926
HIV; respiratory tract diseases; lung diseases, obstructive; pneumonia; pneumonia, bacterial
14.  Does Clinical Inertia Vary According to Provider Type? 
Despite the well established risks of persistently elevated blood pressure, as well as the benefits of controlling such elevations, hypertension remains underdiagnosed and undertreated. These VA researchers compared the rates of antihypertensive medication intensification between resident physicians, midlevel practitioners, and attending physicians.
PMCID: PMC3255094  PMID: 22247610
15.  Association of Age and Comorbidity with Physical Function in HIV-Infected and Uninfected Patients: Results from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study 
AIDS Patient Care and STDs  2011;25(1):13-20.
Abstract
HIV clinical care now involves prevention and treatment of age-associated comorbidity. Although physical function is an established correlate to comorbidity in older adults without HIV infection, its role in aging of HIV-infected adults is not well understood. To investigate this question we conducted cross-sectional analyses including linear regression models of physical function in 3227 HIV-infected and 3240 uninfected patients enrolled 2002–2006 in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study-8-site (VACS-8). Baseline self-reported physical function correlated with the Short Form-12 physical subscale (ρ = 0.74, p < 0.001), and predicted survival. Across the age groups decline in physical function per year was greater in HIV-infected patients (βcoef −0.25, p < 0.001) compared to uninfected patients (βcoef −0.08, p = 0.03). This difference, although statistically significant (p < 0.01), was small. Function in the average 50-year old HIV-infected subject was equivalent to the average 51.5-year-old uninfected subject. History of cardiovascular disease was a significant predictor of poor function, but the effect was similar across groups. Chronic pulmonary disease had a differential effect on function by HIV status (Δβcoef −3.5, p = 0.03). A 50-year-old HIV-infected subject with chronic pulmonary disease had the equivalent level of function as a 68.1-year-old uninfected subject with chronic pulmonary disease. We conclude that age-associated comorbidity affects physical function in HIV-infected patients, and may modify the effect of aging. Longitudinal research with markers of disease severity is needed to investigate loss of physical function with aging, and to develop age-specific HIV care guidelines.
doi:10.1089/apc.2010.0242
PMCID: PMC3030913  PMID: 21214375
17.  Pregnancy and Mental Health Among Women Veterans Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan 
Journal of Women's Health  2010;19(12):2159-2166.
Abstract
Background
Veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) may experience significant stress during military service that can have lingering effects. Little is known about mental health problems or treatment among pregnant OEF/OIF women veterans. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of mental health problems among veterans who received pregnancy-related care in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) system.
Methods
Data from the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) deployment roster of military discharges from October 1, 2001, through April 30, 2008, were used to assemble an administrative cohort of female OEF/OIF veterans enrolled in care at the VHA (n = 43,078). Pregnancy and mental health conditions were quantified according to ICD-9-CM codes and specifications. Mental healthcare use and prenatal care were assessed by analyzing VHA stop codes.
Results
During the study period, 2966 (7%) women received at least one episode of pregnancy-related care, and 32% of veterans with a pregnancy and 21% without a pregnancy received one or more mental health diagnoses (p < 0.0001). Veterans with a pregnancy were twice as likely to have a diagnosis of depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia as those without a pregnancy.
Conclusions
Women OEF/OIF veterans commonly experience mental health problems after military service. The burden of mental health conditions is higher among women with an identified instance of pregnancy than among those without. Because women do not receive pregnancy care at the VHA, however, little is known about ongoing concomitant prenatal and mental healthcare or about pregnancy outcomes among these women veterans.
doi:10.1089/jwh.2009.1892
PMCID: PMC3052271  PMID: 21039234
18.  Estimating Alcohol Content of Traditional Brew in Western Kenya Using Culturally Relevant Methods: The Case for Cost Over Volume 
AIDS and behavior  2008;14(4):836-844.
Traditional homemade brew is believed to represent the highest proportion of alcohol use in sub-Saharan Africa. In Eldoret, Kenya, two types of brew are common: chang’aa, spirits, and busaa, maize beer. Local residents refer to the amount of brew consumed by the amount of money spent, suggesting a culturally relevant estimation method. The purposes of this study were to analyze ethanol content of chang’aa and busaa; and to compare two methods of alcohol estimation: use by cost, and use by volume, the latter the current international standard. Laboratory results showed mean ethanol content was 34% (SD = 14%) for chang’aa and 4% (SD = 1%) for busaa. Standard drink unit equivalents for chang’aa and busaa, respectively, were 2 and 1.3 (US) and 3.5 and 2.3 (Great Britain). Using a computational approach, both methods demonstrated comparable results. We conclude that cost estimation of alcohol content is more culturally relevant and does not differ in accuracy from the international standard.
doi:10.1007/s10461-008-9492-z
PMCID: PMC2909349  PMID: 19015972
Alcohol; Traditional brew; HIV; Kenya; Cognitive behavioral treatment
19.  Patterns of drug use and abuse among aging adults with and without HIV: A latent class analysis of a US Veteran cohort* 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2010;110(3):208-220.
This study characterized the extent and patterns self-reported drug use among aging adults with and without HIV, assessed differences in patterns by HIV status, and examined pattern correlates. Data derived from 6351 HIV infected and uninfected adults enrolled in an eight-site matched cohort, the Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS). Using clinical variables from electronic medical records and sociodemographics, drug use consequences, and frequency of drug use from baseline surveys, we performed latent class analyses (LCA) stratified by HIV status and adjusted for clinical and socio-demographic covariates. Participants were, on average, age 50 (range 22–86), primarily male (95%) and African-American (64%). Five distinct patterns emerged: non-users, past primarily marijuana users, past multidrug users, current high consequence multidrug users, and current low consequence primarily marijuana users. HIV status strongly influenced class membership. Non -users were most p revalent among HIV uninfected (36.4%) and current high consequence multidrug users (25.5%) were most prevalent among HIV infected. While problems of obesity marked those not currently u sing drugs, current users experienced higher prevalences of medical or mental health disorders. Multimorbidity was highest among past and current multidrug users. HIV-infected participants were more likely than HIV-uninfected participants to be current low consequence primarily marijuana users. In this sample, active drug use and abuse were common. HIV infected and uninfected Veterans differed on extent and patterns of drug use and on important characteristics within identified classes. Findings have the potential to inform screening and intervention efforts in aging drug users with and without HIV.
doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2010.02.020
PMCID: PMC3087206  PMID: 20395074
aging; Veterans; HIV; substance-related disorders; latent class analysis; illicit drugs; cohort studies
20.  The Burden of Illness in the First Year Home: Do Male and Female VA Users Differ in Health Conditions and Healthcare Utilization 
Background
We sought to describe gender differences in medical and mental health conditions and health care utilization among veterans who used Veterans Health Administration (VA) services in the first year after combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Methods
This is an observational study, using VA administrative and clinical data bases, of 163,812 Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans who had enrolled in VA and who had at least one visit within 1 year of last deployment.
Results
Female veterans were slightly younger (mean age, 30 years vs. 32 for men; p <.0001), twice as likely to be African American (30% vs. 15%; p <.0001), and less likely to be married (32% vs. 49%; p < .0001). Women had more visits to primary care (2.6 vs. 2.0; p < .001) and mental health (4.0 vs. 3.6; p < .001) clinics and higher use of community care outside the VA (14% vs. 10%; p < .001). After adjustment for significant demographic differences, women were more likely to have musculoskeletal and skin disorders, mild depression, major depression, and adjustment disorders, whereas men were more likely to have ear disorders and posttraumatic stress disorder. Thirteen percent of women sought care for gynecologic examination, 10% for contraceptive counseling, and 7% for menstrual disorders.
Conclusion
Female veterans had similar rates of physical conditions, but higher rates of some mental health disorders and additionally, used the VA for reproductive health needs. They also had slightly greater rates of health care service use. These findings highlight the complexity of female Veteran health care and support the development of enhanced comprehensive women’s health services within the VA.
doi:10.1016/j.whi.2010.08.001
PMCID: PMC3138124  PMID: 21185994
21.  Time to Depression Treatment in Primary Care Among HIV-infected and Uninfected Veterans 
BACKGROUND
Multiple factors, including patient characteristics, competing demands, and clinic type, impact delivery of depression treatment in primary care.
OBJECTIVE
Assess whether depression severity and HIV serostatus have a differential effect on time to depression treatment among depressed patients receiving primary care at Infectious Disease or General Medicine clinics.
DESIGN
Multicenter prospective cohort, (Veterans Aging Cohort Study), comparing HIV-infected to uninfected patients.
PARTICIPANTS AND MEASURES
The total cohort consisted of 3,239 HIV-infected and 3,227 uninfected patients. Study inclusion criteria were untreated depressive symptoms, based on a Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) score of greater than 9, and no antidepressants or mental health visits in the 90 days prior to PHQ-9 assessment. Treatment was defined as antidepressant receipt or mental health visit within 90 days following PHQ-9 assessment. Depression severity based on PHQ-9 scores was defined as mild-moderate (greater than 9 to 19) and severe (20 or greater). Kaplan-Meier curves were used to estimate time to treatment by depression severity and HIV serostatus. Cox proportional hazards methods adjusted for covariates were used.
KEY RESULTS
Overall, 718 (11%) of the cohort met inclusion criteria, 258 (36%) of whom received treatment. Median time to treatment was 7 days [95% confidence interval (CI) = 4, 13] and was shortest for severely depressed HIV-infected patients (0.5 days; 95% CI = 0.5, 6, p = 0.04). Compared to mildly-moderately depressed uninfected patients, severely depressed HIV-infected patients were significantly more likely to receive treatment [adjusted hazard ratio (HR) 1.67, 95% CI = 1.07, 2.60), whereas mildly-moderately depressed HIV-infected patients (adjusted HR 1.10, 95% CI = 0.79, 1.52) and severely depressed uninfected patients (adjusted HR 0.93, 95% CI = 0.60, 1.44) were not.
CONCLUSIONS
In this large cohort, time to primary care treatment of depression was shortest among severely depressed HIV-infected patients. Regardless of HIV serostatus, if depression was not treated on the assessment day, then it was unlikely to be treated within a 90-day period, leading to the majority of depression being untreated.
doi:10.1007/s11606-010-1323-z
PMCID: PMC2881956  PMID: 20405335
AIDS; antidepressant drugs; HIV; major depression; psychotherapy
22.  Depression Symptoms and Treatment Among HIV Infected and Uninfected Veterans 
AIDS and behavior  2008;14(2):272-279.
Depression is one of the most common comorbid conditions affecting persons with HIV. We compared depressive symptoms and depression treatment using data from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS), a prospective cohort of HIV-infected and uninfected subjects. We identified subjects with a Patient Health Questionnaire score of 10 or greater. Treatment was defined as prescription of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) or mental health counseling. Overall, 16% of 4,480 subjects had depressive symptoms, and HIV-infected patients were more likely to have had depressive symptoms (OR = 1.38, 95% CI = 1.18, 1.62). Geographic site of care and having a mental health provider at the clinic was associated with treatment. In multivariable models restricted to 732 patients with depressive symptoms, receipt of depression treatment did not differ by HIV status (Adjusted OR = 1.11, 95% CI = 0.80, 1.54). Non-Hispanic whites were more likely to receive treatment (Adjusted OR = 2.09, 95% CI 1.04, 4.24). Primary care and HIV providers were equally unlikely to treat active depressive symptoms. Treatment variation by race, site, and availability of a mental health provider, suggests targets for intervention.
doi:10.1007/s10461-008-9428-7
PMCID: PMC3125603  PMID: 18648927
HIV-infection; Depression; Psychiatric status rating scales; Anti-depressive agents
23.  Quantifying the Decrement in Utility from Perceived Side Effects of Combination Antiretroviral Therapies in Patients with HIV 
Background
The decrement in utility attributable to side effects from combination antiretroviral therapy (CART) is unknown and likely to influence clinical decisions regarding CART initiation and cost-effectiveness.
Objective
To quantify the decrement in utility attributable to side effects from CART.
Methods
We estimated SF-6D utilities (quality-of-life weights on a scale from 0.29 [worst possible health] to 1.00 [perfect health]) from SF-12 scores among patients with HIV in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study by using a published and validated conversion algorithm. We then compared utilities among patients who: 1) did not have bothersome symptoms while taking CART; 2) had bothersome symptoms that they thought might be due to CART; and 3) had bothersome symptoms that they were confident were due to CART; we controlled for other characteristics known to influence quality of life and stratified analyses by CD4 count.
Results
Among 1864 patients with available data, symptoms perceived to be attributable to CART were associated with a mean (95% confidence interval) decrement in utility of 0.06 (0.05, 0.08) points in univariate analyses and 0.08 (0.06, 0.10) in multivariable analyses, clinically significant differences that are comparable to utility decrements reported for partial impotence or mild angina. Other significant predictors of changes in SF-6D utilities were hazardous alcohol consumption, recent drug use, cigarette smoking, homelessness, and African American race (R2 = 0.12). Stratifying by CD4 count, symptoms attributable to CART side effects decreased utility by 0.03 to 0.08 points.
Conclusions
Symptoms perceived to be related to CART are associated with a substantial decrement in utility.
doi:10.1111/j.1524-4733.2007.00315.x
PMCID: PMC3121315  PMID: 18225989
cost-effectiveness analysis; quality of life; utility assessment
24.  IMPACT OF CIGARETTE SMOKING ON MORTALITY IN HIV-POSITIVE AND HIV-NEGATIVE VETERANS 
It is unknown whether smoking confers similar mortality risk in HIV-positive as in HIV-negative patients. We compared overall mortality stratified by HIV and smoking of 1,034 HIV-positive block-matched to 739 HIV-negative veterans, enrolled 2001–2002 in the Veterans Aging Cohort 5 Site Study. Adjusted incidence rate ratios (IRR) for mortality were calculated using Poisson regression. Mortality was significantly increased in HIV-positive veterans according to both smoking status and pack-years in unadjusted and adjusted analyses (adjusted IRR 2.31, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.53–3.49 for HIV-positive current smokers and IRR 1.32, 95% CI 0.67–2.61 for HIV-negative current smokers). Comorbid diseases were also significantly increased according to smoking status and pack-years. Current smoking is associated with poor outcomes; even lower levels of exposure appear to be detrimental in HIV-infected veterans. These findings support the need for improvements in smoking cessation and for studies of mechanisms and diseases underlying increased mortality in smokers with HIV.
doi:10.1521/aeap.2009.21.3_supp.40
PMCID: PMC3118467  PMID: 19537953
25.  Determinants of Hormone Therapy Discontinuation among Female Veterans Nationally 
Military medicine  2008;173(1):91-96.
Purpose
The growing presence of female veterans within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system highlights the need to assess the quality of and access to gender-specific care for menopause. We assessed the use of hormone therapy (HT) among female veterans before and after the release of the Women’s Health Initiative clinical trial results and evaluated whether the structure of women’s health care services within the VA system affects the use of HT.
Methods
We identified all female veterans using HT in 2001 by using the VA pharmacy benefits management database and administrative data. Subjects identified as using HT in 2001 were evaluated to determine estrogen use status in 2003 and 2004. We calculated the change in HT use over time and performed multivariate analyses to identify patient and utilization determinants of HT discontinuation.
Results
In 2001, 36,222 female veterans used HT. By 2004, 23,924 (66%) had discontinued HT. Subjects who had used a VA women’s clinic or were younger (40–54 years of age) were significantly less likely to discontinue HT. However, Hispanic ethnicity, African American race, and clinical diagnoses such as heart disease and mastectomy were significantly associated with discontinuation.
Conclusion
Discontinuation rates in the VA system parallel those in the private sector. However, patients with any use of VA women’s clinics were less likely to discontinue HT, indicating a practice setting variation that may indicate either more specific care or differential implementation of the new HT guidelines. Further research is warranted to assess whether a disparity occurs according to practice setting (or provider factors) with rapid shifts in guidelines.
PMCID: PMC3115618  PMID: 18251338

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