What is One Health?

One Health is an approach that recognizes that the health of people, animals ,and our shared environment are closely interconnected, and that the health of each part is dependent on the health of the others.

For example, when a pet parent cannot secure the services they need for their pet, the pet may become ill. A pet’s illness or loss will then affect the rest of the family financially, emotionally, and possibly even physically since some diseases can be passed from pets to human family members. A sick pet may also contaminate the environment, putting wildlife at risk of illness as well.

On the other hand, a healthy pet can improve the health of human family members and our environment. According to the CDC, pets “increase opportunities to exercise, get outside, and socialize. Regular walking or playing with pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels. Pets can help manage loneliness and depression by giving us companionship.”

We know that our life situations have profound effects on our pets. When a pet parent is food- or housing-insecure, the pet may be at risk of poor nutrition, surrender, or abandonment. This in turn places additional strain on both the human family and the community at-large (especially our animal shelters). Talking to pet parents about their needs and life challenges allows us to intervene early and help keep Whole Families together before a crisis develops!

Our new Whole Families Program will provide the support of PFA’s Social Worker to families in need to help them resolve the issues in their life that may lead to surrender or poor health in their pet.

One Health in Action at PFA

We launched our Whole Families Program on the first Saturday in June 2021 with a free vaccination clinic for the town of Millville. 104 families and 188 pets were served! Volunteers surveyed families to help us learn how the Millville community views their pets and discover any unmet needs or challenges that they were facing. Every single family stated that they consider their pets to be part of the family, and that they depend on their pets for love and emotional support. This was not a surprise for us since we see every day how much our clients love their pets!

Unfortunately, we also learned that three out of every five pets were not spayed or neutered, and 40% had never seen a veterinarian before. Two out of every three families stated that they were unable to afford veterinary care. Others were facing housing- or food-insecurity, while some had pressing pet health needs. We were gratified to be able to offer assistance either directly through PFA or by having our Social Worker connect these clients to traditional social services.

In this way, PFA is forging novel relationships with human social services providers to resolve human crisis and preserve the human-animal bond.

If you would like to speak to our Social Worker, please contact Lori McGahan MSW, LCSW (Lori@pfaonline.org)