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Veteran Caretaker Perspectives of the Need for Childcare Assistance During Health Care Appointments.

Shepherd-Banigan M, Cannedy S, Rodriguez A, Burns M, Woolson S, Hamilton A, Quiroz I, Matthews H, Garber-Cardwell D, Byrd KG, Brown A, Goldstein KM. Veteran Caretaker Perspectives of the Need for Childcare Assistance During Health Care Appointments. Women's health issues : official publication of the Jacobs Institute of Women's Health. 2023 Oct 12.

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PURPOSE: In 2020, Congress passed legislation to establish the national Veterans Child Care Assistance Program (VCAP) targeting eligible veterans receiving care through the Veterans Health Administration (VA). This needs assessment describes the childcare needs of veteran caretakers of young children and explores the implications of inadequate childcare on health care engagement. METHODS: Survey data were collected from 2,000 VA users with dependent children; data were analyzed using standard descriptive statistics. Qualitative data were collected from 19 veterans through focus groups and analyzed using rapid thematic analysis. FINDINGS: More than 75% of veterans surveyed indicated that they required childcare assistance during health care appointments and 73% reported barriers to finding childcare. Prominent barriers included the high cost of childcare and not having a trusted source of childcare. Nearly 58% of survey respondents reported missed or canceled VA health care appointments due to childcare challenges. Furthermore, 35% of surveyed veterans reported that their children had accompanied them to an appointment in the past year. Among these veterans, 59% brought their children into the exam room. Focus group participants discussed how having children present during their health care appointments hampered communication with health care providers. CONCLUSIONS: Veterans report that lack of childcare keeps them from attending and remaining focused on the provider during their health care visits, which could compromise quality of care. As one of the only health systems in the United States that will offer childcare assistance, VCAP presents an opportunity to improve health care access and quality by reducing missed appointments and suboptimal care.

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