240284 Examining the Psychosocial Impacts of Animal-Assisted Interventions on Pediatric Oncology Patients and Their Families

Monday, October 31, 2011

Molly Jenkins, MSW , Child Welfare Department, American Humane Association, Englewood
Ashleigh Ruehrdanz, BA , Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado, Aurora, CO
For many families, animals and pets are an integral part of their daily lives, offering companionship, solace, joy, and companionship. Increasingly, greater attention has been given to the roles that animals can play in supporting the health and emotional well-being of people in need, specifically through therapeutic animal-assisted interventions in a variety of settings. Numerous research studies have provided promising evidence that involving animals in therapeutic interventions is complementary and provides benefits for many populations, such as exercise or opportunities for positive play; relaxation and reduced anxiety; distraction from pain or worry; unconditional support and acceptance; improved skills that lead to healthy relationships with others; enhanced senses of self-esteem and confidence; and increased motivation to actively participate in the healing process. This session will describe a current study that is examining what medical, behavioral, and mental health benefits animal-assisted therapy may have for children with cancer and their families. Findings from a comprehensive literature review will be discussed, allowing participants to gain a better understanding of the issues surrounding animal-assisted interventions with the pediatric oncology population. Additionally, findings from focus group sessions with medical care staff and families coping with childhood cancer will be presented to increase participants' understanding of the complex psychosocial issues that families and medical practitioners face when dealing with childhood cancer, as well as the role that animal-assisted interventions can play in providing both medical staff and families with a complementary practice to traditional pediatric oncology treatment.

Learning Areas:
Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Program planning
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Describe what Animal Assisted Activities and Animal Assisted Therapy (AAA/T) are and their therapeutic benefits (as documented in the literature). Describe the psychosocial issues that children, families and medical professionals face when dealing with childhood cancer diagnoses and how animal-assisted activities may help to address these issues. Identify standards of practice in order to conduct safe animal-assisted interventions that mitigate risk and aid in infection control.

Keywords: Animals and Public Health, Alternative Medicine/Therapies

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a Research Analyst at American Humane Association with extensive knowledge of human-animal bond research and am one of the primary authors of the literature review on animal-assisted interventions for pediatric oncology patients and their families that will be presented in this session.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.