AlignCare: Helping Low-Income Pet Owners Afford Urgent Veterinary Care


What problem is AlignCare—a new program that will help low-income pet owners gain access veterinary care—hoping to solve?

Michael Blackwell, DVM, MPH, director of the Program for Pet Health Equity at the University of Tennessee College of Social Work, talks about the problem that AlignCare—a new program that will help low-income pet owners gain access veterinary care—is helping to solve.

"Many have recognized that we have underserved populations. And if we go back in time, we saw this expressed by establishing low-cost or no-cost spay/neuter clinics. A few decades ago, the idea was just to reduce that overpopulation of pets—dogs and cats in particular. And then through time, our communities demanded even more. We need to now shelter the animals that are homeless for a period of time, get them into homes. So, animal shelters really took off. And now we're transporting and foster and caring for and all of those things that reflect a society that still has many members who care about the animals and finding ways to reach them. We now enjoy many successful programs serving underserved populations. However, most of those programs are limited to wellness and preventive care. They will do the spay/neuter procedure, the initial immunizations, and parasite control, but after that initial service is provided, then the services are not generally available. Now, some of those programs have an annual event or something like that.

Here's the problem: The problem we're addressing is what happens when sick care is needed—urgent care, emergency care. So, we're saying that while all this wellness preventive work that's been done by nonprofits and for some for-profits has been successful, we've got to address what happens when urgent cares is needed; the medical part. So, the project that we're working on in a big way is intended to fill in that end of the spectrum."

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