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The College of Social Work Program for Pet Health Equity has received a $2.8 million grant from Maddie’s Fund to support research and development of AlignCare, a health care system designed to improve access to veterinary care for underserved families.

AlignCare grew out of concern for the millions of pets in the United States that lack access to veterinary care, primarily because of their family’s limited financial resources. When these pets experience an illness or injury, they may face prolonged pain or premature death. Some are relinquished to overburdened animal shelters. Having millions of pets with inadequate health care also presents risks to public healtMi

The three-year AlignCare study involves researchers from UT’s College of Social Work, the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research in the Haslam College of Business, the College of Veterinary Medicine, and the Department of Public Health in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. It is an extension of work done by the Access to Veterinary Care Coalition, which commissioned a national study of barriers to veterinary care, performed by the College of Social Work’s Center for Applied Research and Evaluation and also funded by Maddie’s Fund. The results of that study will be available by the end of the year.

AlignCare’s “one health” model recognizes that access to veterinary care for underserved families requires new interprofessional collaborations that provide medical treatment while also considering a family’s financial reality and other factors that prevent adequate veterinary care.

“Thanks to Maddie, millions of pets and their people will benefit from the ‘one health’ approach that is AlignCare by sustainably gaining access to veterinary care,” said Michael Blackwell, lead investigator and former dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine. “Lack of access to veterinary care is the greatest animal welfare crisis affecting owned pets in the United States. We can manage our way out of this problem by making evidence-based decisions, ultimately achieving pet health equity and improving family and community health and well-being.”

According to Blackwell, social service and public health programs do not adequately consider the presence and influence of pets on overall family health and well-being. Additionally, veterinary service providers are focused on a pet’s medical needs and are not structured to address financial limitations of the families. More pets may be helped by veterinary service providers delivering effective care that is patient-centered and evidence-based in the context of limited resources, which may prevent nontreatment or euthanasia.

“Animal welfare’s primary focus has been to find homes for homeless pets. AlignCare takes this vision to its next big step in revolutionizing the status and well-being of companion animals by helping to keep pets in their homes,” said Dr. Laurie Peek, Executive Leadership Team for Maddie’s Fund. “We are delighted to fund this project as it honors the human-animal bond and the love that pets and people have for one another.”

About Maddie’s Fund

Maddie’s Fundis a family foundation created in 1994 by Workday co-founder Dave Duffield and his wife, Cheryl, who endowed the foundation with more than $300 million. The foundation has awarded more than $208.9 million in grants toward increased community lifesaving, shelter medicine education and pet adoptions, and foster care across the US. The Duffields named Maddie’s Fundafter their miniature schnauzer, Maddie, who made them laugh and gave them great joy. Maddie was with them for 10 years and continues to inspire them today. Maddie’s Fund is the fulfillment of a promise to an inspirational dog, investing its resources to create a no-kill nation where every dog and cat is guaranteed a healthy home or habitat. #ThanksToMaddie.

CONTACT:

Karen Dunlap (865-974-8674, kdunlap6@utk.edu)