By Janet Hendrickson, FNP-C

I have always been drawn to animals and, other than a few years when I was in college, I’ve always had at least one dog or cat in my family. Animals are a source of joy and comfort. And, for me, they are most definitely a member of the family. Without them, my house would feel empty. I know I would be much less active if I didn’t have my hiking and walking buddies begging for an outing at least once a day. I have always felt that because animals play such a large role in my life, my health is much better. Studies, some of which have been posted on our Facebook page, have even demonstrated the health benefits of owning a dog!

I am a Nurse Practitioner and, more than once, I have heard from my patients how dogs have brought them a sense of stability and belonging. My patients even go further and tell me they don’t know what they would do without their dog, cat or other companion animal. I have watched first-hand as a person’s health turned around and greatly improved when pets have been added to the family. Children who grow up with pets have a much lower chance of developing allergies, and they learn empathy…something that is much needed in our ever-increasing technological world.

When I was a student at UC Davis in the Family Nurse Practitioner/Physician Assistant program, I had the opportunity to log clinical hours at the Knights Landing One Health Clinic; the first One Health Clinic in the nation! This clinic is one of the seven UC Davis student run free clinics for people who have no health insurance or are under-served. The One Health clinic was just getting started. And what I loved about it is that once a month veterinary services would be offered at the same time as medical services for people. My passion for helping animals met with my chosen profession! I knew right there and then I wanted to do something in my career to expand on this novel approach to healthcare.

But, why One Health? Well, first let’s define it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines One Health as the recognition that the health of people is connected to the health of animals and the environment. It is a collaborative, multisectoral, and trans-disciplinary approach—working at the local, regional, national, and global levels—with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment.

Health is the new wealth. And I agree. Without good health, we truly do not have much. We cannot enjoy our lives or live up to our full potential. I started to write down my reasons for being passionate about One Health but honestly, I think The One Health Commission sums it up much better than I ever could.

Why One Health?
  • Worldwide, nearly 75 percent of all emerging human infectious diseases in the past three decades originated in animals.
  • Environmental health may affect human and animal health through contamination, pollution and poor conditions that may lead to new infectious agents.
  • The world population is projected to grow from 7 billion in 2011 to 9 billion by 2050.
  • To provide adequate healthcare, food and water for the growing global population, the health professions, and their related disciplines and institutions, must work together.
  • The human-animal bond beneficially impacts the health of both people and animals.

One Health makes sense. By approaching health care collaboratively, rather than in silos, we can be more efficient and most importantly more effective for people, animals and the environment. Our programs at People & Pets Project are just one piece of the puzzle to help us ensure Mother Earth stays healthy. And in return she can allow us all to live the healthiest, happiest life possible. By taking care of all of her inhabitants and the environment we all share, we ultimately take better care of ourselves.

People & Pets Project was founded to develop innovative programs in the spirit of the One Health Initiative. We came together to help under-served communities achieve good health by creating programs that recognize the interconnectedness of all who share planet Earth. We aim to promote the beneficial impacts of the human animal bond, because together we are much healthier than if we live alone.

Please join us on our incredible journey as we move forward working collaboratively with many others locally, nationally, and globally to help provide services to help people and animals live their healthiest life possible in an environment that reflects good health for all. I welcome and look forward to your comments on our website and on our Facebook page!

“Healthcare for Both Ends of the Leash” will be in Guatemala from June 24-28!  We are taking the months of July and August off and will return to holding our clinics in Middle Georgia in September. Have a great summer!