In an effort to reduce the high rate of suicide among post-9/11 veterans, a collaborative team within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has developed a holistic community-based health promotion program designed to facilitate social and self-connectedness. The purpose of this study was to elicit veteran and stakeholder feedback to prepare the program for piloting and implementation.
Focus groups and interviews were conducted with post-9/11 veterans and veteran stakeholders (e.g., VA clinicians) to elicit feedback regarding the health promotion program. Focus groups and interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. Qualitative thematic analysis identified key themes emerging from the focus groups and interviews.
Seven focus groups (3 Veteran groups, 4 stakeholder groups) and 3 interviews (2 Veterans, 1 stakeholder) were conducted with 41 participants (14 veterans, 27 stakeholders). Overall, participants had a positive perception of the program. Thematic analysis revealed shared perspectives that provided insight into 1) enhancing program recruitment and retention, 2) the perceived ability of a health promotion program to provide more holistic, veteran-centered care, and 3) using health promotion programs to help veterans establish structure in their daily lives.
Findings indicated an overall acceptance of the program, and participants’ perspectives on how to reduce barriers and enhance facilitators can inform the development of a larger-scale health promotion program that can be tested through future research. While discussion questions were specifically focused on the program in this study, findings can be considered more broadly for the design and implementation of related programs to effectively improve the health and wellness of post-9/11 veterans.