Six children's hospitals and seven legal organizations are meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas today to kick off Better Team for Child Health. This children's hospital learning network will study the impact of legal care on child health and develop recommendations on how to better build an interprofessional healthcare team that responds to the complex social and health-harming legal needs of children. It's being convened by the Advisory Board Company, the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services and Walmart.
"Good health requires a lot more than good medicine," said Ellen Lawton, co-principal investigator of the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership. "We know children need safe housing, access to health insurance and enough of the right foods in order to be healthy. But what is less commonly understood is that the complex nature of these problems often requires healthcare and legal professionals working together to advocate for patients and change the policies that impact health."
Over the last 10 years, the participating hospitals and legal organizations have individually pioneered innovative medical- legal partnerships that integrate legal care into patient healthcare services. They have seen preliminary improvements in patient health and adherence to medical treatments as well as cost savings for the hospitals.
"The initial research shows that children's hospitals that make lawyers part of the healthcare team -- to train other team members to identify and screen for problems and to advocate for patients -- improved housing conditions and prevented homelessness, obtained health insurance and recovered money in previously denied benefits for patients," said Brian Contos, executive director within the Advisory Board Company's Research & Insights division.
The learning network will further study the impact of legal care on patient health and develop recommendations that will help every children's hospital in the U.S. understand the connection between legal needs and child health and build smarter interprofessional partnerships that improve the quality of children's healthcare. Walmart, who has supported medical-legal partnership in Arkansas since 2010, is engaging other corporate pro bono organizations to participate in the learning network and support partnerships in their communities.
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