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Collaborative outreach pilot program to serve as national model for homebound patients and pets

BE THE MODELTM STRATEGIC PLAN: Outreach and Community Engagement

Ohio State’s Colleges of Veterinary Medicine, Nursing and Social Work recently launched the POP (Pet Owner and Pet) Care pilot program, a first-of-its-kind healthcare model, to improve the health of homebound adults and their pets. The program, funded through a Hillman Foundation Emergent Innovations grant, takes an interdisciplinary approach—transitioning from a pattern of reactive sick care into proactive, holistic well care by joining the knowledge and service of students and supervising faculty from three academic colleges.

The POP Care Program brings an innovative strategy to transform the lives of homebound members of the community by creating an inter-professional team consisting of a nurse practitioner, veterinarian and social worker to address the health needs of people and their pets—with the goal of improving health outcomes for both. Approximately 60 students from veterinary medicine, nursing and social work will assess the needs of 60 households. Students will be assigned individual patients and provide home care once a week for four weeks. This opportunity builds upon a decade-long program the College of Veterinary Medicine had with LifeCare Alliance, through which the college has provided veterinary care to the pets of vulnerable populations served through Meals on Wheels.

As pet owners themselves, Deans Dr. Rustin Moore, College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk, College of Nursing,and Dr. Tom Gregoire, College of Social Work, understand the importance of the human-animal bond.

Laurie Millward, DVM, MS, DACVP, assistant professor, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, who also leads the Veterinary Medicine Outreach Program efforts for the college, has seen the incredible impact of community outreach. “We know from research that the human-animal bond, especially for our older neighbors who live by themselves, is beneficial to both parties’ well-being. It’s true that when you improve care for a pet, you also improve outcomes for the humans who love them.”

Through its existing Veterinary Medicine Outreach Program, the college has made more than 900 home visits to help companion animals of homebound, low-income or older adults in the last nine years, with a visit growth of more than 400 percent in the past year.

Holly Dabelko-Schoeny, PhD, associate professor, College of Social Work, whose research and expertise include testing innovative interventions to support the well-being of older adults, describes the impact this program can have for all involved. “We are very excited about learning how both students and patients benefit from this experience so that this approach can be scaled more broadly.”

Rustin Moore, DVM, PhD, DACVS, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, recognizes the rich experience this collaborative pilot program provides students. “Outreach and community engagement are a core part of our strategic plan,” says Dean Moore. “This program gives students the opportunity to practice skills through compassionate community care for animals of underserved populations, while also gaining social awareness, building cultural competencies and instilling civic responsibility.”
The POP Care program embodies the One Health concept endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which suggests that the health of people can be directly connected to the health of the animals and the environment around them. Roughly two million elderly Americans are homebound, and the innovative strategy behind this program has huge potential to encourage a creative shift in today’s healthcare system for this population.

Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk, PhD, APRN-CNP, FAANP, FNAP, FAAN, vice president for health promotion, university chief wellness officer and dean of the College of Nursing, and also the principal investigator for this grant, is pleased with the magnitude of this collaboration. Says Dean Melnyk, “This collaborative partnership among our health sciences colleges has great potential to change the face of well care, not only for the population of people and pets in our own community, but also to serve as a national model for other communities around the country to emulate.”

The College of Veterinary Medicine's BE THE MODELTM Strategic Plan outlines the college's ambition to Be the Model comprehensive college of veterinary medicine in the world. Our partnership with other health sciences colleges to provide exceptional care to homebound adults and their pets is just one example of our focus on outreach and community engagement. Learn more about the strategic plan and other advances at the college.

Last updated: 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019 - 1:07pm