How doctors and lawyers work together to improve children’s health

Many of these complex social issues can best be addressed through the creation of medical legal partnerships.

Op-Ed (Iowa)

Dennis Groenenboom
Des Moines Register
December 27, 2016

Tags: Medical-Legal Partnerships

Organizations mentioned/involved: Iowa Legal Aid


Medical legal partnerships were first initiated in the mid-1990s at Boston Medical Center. Dr. Barry Zuckerman concluded he could not treat the medical issues of many of his pediatric patients without including a lawyer on the treatment team. Medical professionals would address health issues such as asthma or lead paint poisoning and return the patient to a home that would create more health problems. Meaningful results required changing environmental conditions, which often involved ensuring landlords met their obligations to provide habitable housing. The social factors affecting health are beginning to be addressed in Iowa.

Lawyers, as part of a health care team, can play a crucial role in helping patients resolve legal problems harming their lives and their health. Iowa Legal Aid has been working with medical legal partnerships since 2006. Blank Children’s Hospital and Iowa Legal Aid began a partnership in 2015 to establish the Medical Legal Project. An Iowa Legal Aid attorney has office hours at Blank Children’s Hospital’s General Pediatrics Clinic, and is available to all children receiving care.