Preventive law becomes preventive medicine

October 22, 2012

In a commentary to appear in the Oct. 22 issue of the journal Pediatrics, Barry Zuckerman, MD, the Joel and Barbara Alpert Professor of Pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, discusses how by working together, lawyers and physicians potentially can close the gap in health disparities that persist even in universal health care coverage.

While the relationship between poverty and poor health is complex, access to basic needs like adequate housing and nutrition, appropriate education and personal safety is well documented to improve health trajectories.

According to Zuckerman the article by Beck, et al in Pediatrics represents a special example of how a multidisciplinary approach to social determinants of health initiated from a primary care setting can address poor housing conditions and reduce risk for asthma for individual patients and for a population. "When families do not receive the benefits or protections of certain laws, their health can be undermined. The consequences can be treated medically, but their upstream causes are social and are more effectively addressed using legal strategies," said Zuckerman.

A recent report estimates that 50 to 85 percent of health center users – between 10 and 17 million people – experience unmet legal needs, many of which impact their health. Most at-risk individuals may not know that their problems have legal solutions. Medical-Legal Partnerships, founded by Zuckerman at Boston Medical Center in 1993 for children, helps parents navigate the complex government and legal systems that often hold solutions for many social determinants of poor health.

"The team's role is to identify early unmet legal needs that cause or exacerbate child health problems. Once identified, lawyers bring critical skills to complement the expertise of the health care team," explained Zuckerman.

By reducing the impact of legal determinants that affect health, this creative partnership in clinical settings will compliment increased access to health care provided by recent health care reforms.

Explore further: Physicians call for better access to health care for immigrants

Related Stories

Physicians call for better access to health care for immigrants

April 7, 2011
As the U.S. immigrant population grows it will be necessary to address the vast number of immigrants who do not have access to health insurance coverage, or who face other barriers to accessing health care, the American College ...

Understanding where health disparities begin

October 6, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- The strongest solutions to health disparities lie outside the health care system — in the community and the policies that affect living conditions, according to a new article co-authored by a Virginia ...

Health-care disparities exist for children with autism spectrum disorders, researcher says

June 11, 2012
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) require an array of specialized health care services. With these services come higher costs for parents and insurance providers. University of Missouri researchers compared costs ...

Researchers find most substance-dependent individuals report poor oral health

April 14, 2011
A team of Boston University researchers has found that the majority of individuals with substance dependence problems report having poor oral health. They also found that opioid users, in particular, showed a decline in oral ...

Recommended for you

Higher blood sugar in early pregnancy raises baby's heart-defect risk

December 15, 2017
Higher blood sugar early in pregnancy raises the baby's risk of a congenital heart defect, even among mothers who do not have diabetes, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Injuries from window blinds send two children to the emergency department every day

December 11, 2017
Most homes have them. They help keep our rooms warm or cold and even add a pop of color to tie the décor together. But window blinds can cause serious injuries or even death to young children. A new study from the Center ...

Blood flow altered in brains of preterm newborns vs. full-term infants

December 4, 2017
Cerebral blood flow (CBF) of key regions of newborns' brains is altered in very premature infants and may provide an early warning sign of disturbed brain maturation well before such injury is visible on conventional imaging, ...

HPV vaccine is effective, safe 10 years after it's given

November 29, 2017
A decade of data on hundreds of boys and girls who received the HPV vaccine indicates the vaccine is safe and effective long term in protecting against the most virulent strains of the virus, researchers report.

Antibiotics administered during labor delay healthy gut bacteria in babies

November 28, 2017
Antibiotics administered during labour for Group B Streptococcus (GBS) affect the development of gut bacteria in babies, according to a study from McMaster University.

Stress in pregnancy linked to changes in infant's nervous system, less smiling, less resilience

November 23, 2017
Maternal stress during the second trimester of pregnancy may influence the nervous system of the developing child, both before and after birth, and may have subtle effects on temperament, resulting in less smiling and engagement, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.