Project title: Leveraging the Human-Animal Bond for care access in the unhoused population: A One Health Study
Completed in: 2022 | Faculty advisor: Peter Rabinowitz
There is extensive research about the benefits of the human-animal bond on different health outcomes through a variety of animal assisted interventions. A population with strong connection to their companion animals, and well-documented health disparities is youth and young adults experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity. The purpose of this paper is to examine several integrated care model interventions for this population and their companion animals, and evaluate how they can be used to potentially improve health outcomes. This study utilized 2019 One Health Clinic data, and survey data from a pilot dog training study to characterize the experience of the participants through descriptive statistical analysis. Multiple logistic regression analyses were also performed to assess the relationship among One Health Clinic clients, Emotional Support Animal (ESA) status, human mental health diagnoses, and the relationship between ESA and housing status. The three most common reasons for seeking human healthcare over the total number of visits (n=95) were mental health (34.7%), contraception (22.1%), and substance use (15.8%). 30.5% of the animals seen in 2019 were considered ESAs, and 72% of the ESAs were dogs. With each additional psychiatric diagnosis, the odds of having an animal considered to be an ESA decreased by 83.3% (PR: 0.167, CI: 0.0192, 0.764). Individuals who have an ESA have a 5.5% (PR: 0.945, CI: 0.152, 5.87) lower odds of being homeless compared to those who identify as housed. No significant changes were found in Dog Parkour Training Study data. These findings support that there is a relationship between human mental health, companion animals and housing status in the unhoused population. Additional research is needed to further investigate the direction of these relationships and confirm the effectiveness of the interventions. However, the results also show that One Health Clinic models provide a unique opportunity for insight into this population through an animal assisted intervention.