Introduction: The Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the largest integrated healthcare delivery system in the United States, is charged with ensuring timely access to high-quality care for veterans during disasters, and supporting national, state, local, and tribal emergency management and homeland security efforts. In 2008, the VHA Office of Public Health (OPH) sponsored the first VHA Emergency Management Research Agenda-setting conference to develop research priorities that address the needs of veterans and to position VHA as a national leader in emergency management by having VHA serve as a “laboratory” for the development of evidence-based emergency management practices.
Methods: We focused on four steps: #1: Appraising the emergency management research portfolio of VHA-based researchers; #2: Obtaining systematic information on VHA’s role in emergency management and the healthcare needs of veterans during disasters; #3: Based upon gaps between the current research portfolio and the existing evidence base, identifying strategic priorities using a research agenda-setting conference; and #4: Laying the groundwork to foster the conduct of emergency management research within VHA.
Results: Identified research priorities included how to prevent and treat behavioral health problems related to a disaster, the efficacy of training programs, crisis communication strategies, workforce resilience, and evacuating veterans from health care facilities.
Conclusion: VHA is uniquely situated to answer research questions that cannot be readily addressed in other settings. VHA should partner with other governmental and private entities to build on existing work and establish shared research priorities.