On a warm Thursday in October, Katana, tail wagging, tentatively walked through a Pittsburgh parking lot beside her owner.
The 4-month-old Caramel Bulldog and her human companion, Terrie Scoggins, were greeted by a group of health care workers standing outside two mobile clinics. Scoggins, 41, and Catana were the only two patients on the field that day at Highmark Stadium, home of the professional football team the Riverhounds. The glittering Pittsburgh skyline rises in the background, spanning the Monongahela River.
Scoggins was wearing camouflage pants and carrying a large backpack. He works part-time at a bakery in Pittsburgh and worries about the cost of Catana’s daily injections, which is especially concerning because she recently got worms. He said another of his puppies died from worms a few days ago.
Free veterinary clinics are helping.
“It breaks my heart,” he said as he waited for staff from Pittsburgh Humane Animal Rescue to examine the katana.
Transplantation progress:A high-voltage power line disfigured his face. The doctor just gave him a new one.
Katana shyly greeted an Allegheny Health Network-affiliated nurse and several caseworkers for humane care, who gathered around Scoggins and knelt down to pet her before she was pushed back to a sitting position. Between Scoggins’ legs.She raised her head and looked at them with her chestnut eyes.
This is where person-centered clinicians come in—they stand up and ask Scoggins if he’s ready for a health screening, HIV or hepatitis test.
It is thought that by treating pets like Catana, health workers can also reach out and treat their owners, who may be reticent about the cost of attending clinics and may prefer to receive free pet care rather than providing care for them Help with your health. . Pittsburgh’s new pilot program, called the Humane Health Alliance, aims to treat people and their pets together for free. It targets patients who may face barriers to accessing care. The dual mobile clinic combines primary care and veterinary care using a public health model that focuses on the relationship between people and pets. The challenge is getting people in.
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“Treat both ends of the leash”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s One Health model, which focuses on the relationship between humans and animals, has been around for decades. For centuries, experts have explored the spread of disease between humans and animals. Today, this looks like human doctors asking patients if they have pets, knowing that pets can spread bacteria that may be harmful to humans.
Public health experts say taking this extra step to put them in one place and have these conversations organically is important in reaching patients.
“If there’s an opportunity to bring in people from the community to help meet the needs of pets and people, that could be a huge step in protecting the overall health,” said Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh, a trained veterinarian and director of the CDC. A very effective way to stay healthy,” a health office told USA Today.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a huge increase in pet adoptions, she said. That’s where the “Healthy Pets, Healthy People” program comes from.
One Health is “addressing both ends of the tether,” said Ben Talik, program manager for the Reaching Out on Our Streets, or ROOTS, homeless outreach program in Pittsburgh. share. “While you’re here treating your animals,” he said, “let us focus on you, too.”
A collaboration between primary care providers at Allegheny Health Network and veterinarians at a humane animal rescue organization began with conversations about how to provide care to vulnerable communities in Pittsburgh, including those who are homeless or without stable housing. Pittsburgh’s homeless population is relatively small, with the latest count showing fewer than 1,000 people living in shelters or experiencing homelessness in January.
Talik, who regularly shuttles people to care, said the population fluctuates and increases during the warmer months. Many people without stable housing own pets. He said many people also said they were anxious about accessing hospital services for non-emergency situations and were sometimes nervous about interacting with health care providers who were providing care on the streets.
The human-pet partnership program is just a month old and started as an appointment-only clinic. The partnership is currently working to identify the best places for people to go to free, walk-in clinics.
So far, they’ve found that through joint outreach with veterinarians, pet owners are more willing to seek human care.
“Health does not exist in a vacuum,” Dr. Louis Weiss, co-director of the Center for Global Health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, told USA Today. Weiss researched approaches to the One Health model to better educate physicians about health and the relationship between people, pets, and the environment. After all, people are affected by their pets’ health conditions, he added.
Meet needs locally
Dressed in surgical scrubs and Hoka running shoes, Dr. Ariella Samson, executive director of Pittsburgh Humane Animal Rescue, knelt down to examine Katana as she lay at Scoggins’ feet. She lifted Katana’s chin and examined the puppy’s baby teeth. Katana would soon start losing her teeth, she told Scoggins.
Samson is excited to be a part of this unique program where the needs of pet owners will be met. The humane animal rescue van is equipped with flea and heartworm medications, vaccines, spay and neuter equipment, and free food and leashes. At the adjacent mobile clinic, for Human Health, Allegheny Health Network has a registered nurse on-site ready to perform screenings, blood pressure checks and HIV and hepatitis C testing.
“We know that people who are experiencing problems with veterinary care may be experiencing the same problems with human health care,” Samson said. “By bringing everything together in one place, our goal is to tap into the human-animal bond .”
Providing health care to those who have never been to a clinic
Coco, a three-month-old black pit bull, was shaking when Jessica Rankin, 47, placed her on the sidewalk. A veterinary technician brought her a pink leash attached to a purple dog vest. Coco warmed up in her new fall outfit, wagging her tail and trying to get along with the staff. Every time she ventured beyond the reach of the leash, she was pulled backwards.
“Oh, no, I forgot,” Rankin told the humane animal rescuer. “She’s never had one.”
Coco received her first round of flea and tick shots. Rankin was unemployed and struggling to care for his dog. She was unaware of the primary care clinic before arriving. She ultimately did not use humane care services.
Allegheny Health Network is empty most of the day. Staff at the Center for Inclusive Health, the network’s program for underserved or marginalized populations, distributed information about HIV testing and naloxone, a drug used to reverse opioid overdoses.
Eleven patients are at the door, and human health staff hope they can connect them with health services, such as a regular primary care physician and information about addiction programs.
“This clinic should be part of a larger picture of how we care for the health of our community,” said Dr. Elizabeth Cuevas, an internal medicine and addiction medicine physician and division chief of the Center for Inclusion. “It’s a way to reach individuals who sometimes get lost in the community and never really show up in the health care system.”
After being screened and photographed, Katana left the clinic wearing a pink leash with a black safety harness attached to her chest. Her owner, Scoggins, wanted to weigh her because he believed she was a mix with a Cane Corso, a breed larger than a pit bull.He thinks she weighs 28 pounds, which is a good size for a growing puppy.
Scroggins stuffed the dog food into his backpack. The two can now go home. He must return to the clinic next month for Catana’s next round of puppy vaccines. He told staff he wanted to volunteer because he was good with dogs and knew how to train them. Maybe on his next visit, he might also go to the clinic himself—and not just for Katana.
Eduardo Cuevas covers health and breaking news for USA TODAY. You can contact him at EMCuevas1@usatoday.com.