240324 Utilizing Animal-Assisted Interventions as a Complementary Health Practice in Pediatric Oncology Settings

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: 9:15 AM

Ashleigh Ruehrdanz, BA , Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado, Aurora, CO
Molly Jenkins, MSW , Child Welfare Department, American Humane Association, Englewood
Receiving a cancer diagnosis at any point in your lifetime is never easy, but for many families whose child or sibling has been diagnosed with childhood cancer, the psychosocial effects of this diagnosis can be devastating. While childhood cancer rates have increased somewhat over the past 20 years, treatments have improved that have led to greater survival rates for nearly all forms of childhood cancers. With improved treatments, and survival rates, come new challenges to the field regarding the long-term, psychosocial effects of cancer treatment for children and their families. Utilizing animal-assisted interventions for children and families who are coping with childhood cancer is an innovative complementary health practice that has been subject to little empirical research. This current study utilizes a randomized control trial design in implementing an animal-assisted therapy program in several clinical pediatric oncology settings to examine what medical, behavioral, and mental health benefits animal-assisted interventions may have for children with cancer and their families. This session will describe the preliminary findings from this study, including the challenges in conducting research on incorporating animal-assisted therapy as a complementary health practices in pediatric oncology settings. In addition, participants will gain a greater understanding about the complex psychosocial issues that children and families face when dealing with childhood cancer, and will learn how animal-assisted interventions can affect the psychosocial outcomes for children and families coping with childhood cancer.

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

Learning Objectives:
Describe what animal-assisted interventions are and their role in clinical settings. Identify potential challenges in implementing a complementary health practice, specifically animal-assisted interventions, in pediatric oncology settings. Discuss the potential psychosocial benefits that animal-assisted interventions can provide to children and families coping with childhood cancer.

Keywords: Animals and Public Health, Human Animal Bond

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a master's in public health student and as a research assistant for the American Humane Association I have been involved in human-animal bond research, including the current study that is examining the bio-psychosocial effects of animal-assisted interventions for pediatric oncology patients and their families.
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.