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Pediatrics. 2004 Jul;114(1):224-8.

Why pediatricians need lawyers to keep children healthy.

Author information

  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Boston Medical Center/Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA. barry.zuckerman@bmc.org

Abstract

Pediatricians recognize that social and nonmedical factors influence child health and that there are many government programs and laws designed to provide for children's basic needs. However, gaps in implementation result in denials of services, leading to preventable poor health outcomes. Physician advocacy in these arenas is often limited by lack of knowledge, experience, and resources to intervene. The incorporation of on-site lawyers into the health care team facilitates the provision of crucial legal services to vulnerable families. Although social workers and case managers play a critical role in assessing family stability and finding appropriate resources for families, lawyers are trained to identify violations of rights and to take the appropriate legal steps to hold agencies, landlords, schools, and others accountable on behalf of families. The incorporation of lawyers in the clinical setting originated at an urban academic medical center and is being replicated at >30 sites across the country. Lawyers can help enhance a culture of advocacy in pediatrics by providing direct legal assistance and case consultation for providers, as well as jointly addressing systemic issues affecting children and families. Until laws to promote health and safety are consistently applied and enforced, pediatricians will need lawyers to effectively care for vulnerable children.

PMID:
15231932
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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