A Visit to the Patients’ Lawyer Can Reduce Stress

The Tucson Family Advocacy Program at the University of Arizona Family Medicine clinic is a successful example of a medical-legal partnership.
Blog Post (Arizona, NATIONAL)

Ellen Lawton, Anne M. Ryan, Randa M. Kutob
Huffington Post
July 11, 2014
Link to story

Tags: Health Care, Housing: Landlord-Tenant, Medical-Legal Partnerships

Organizations mentioned/involved: Tucson Family Advocacy Program (TFAP)


This week NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health released a report, “The Burden of Stress in America,” that highlights the seemingly endless cycle of how stress causes poor health and how in turn poor health leads to more stress. The most commonly reported sources of stress among the more than 2,500 people interviewed were health-related. That stress comes from the obvious fear and fatigue caused by being ill or taking care of an ill loved one. But that stress also comes from the circumstances created by illness — the loss of one’s job because of too many missed days of work, the loss of income that threatens food and housing, and the increased need for child care a patient faces when admitted to the hospital.

Health care providers at the University of Arizona Family Medicine clinic are trained to screen patients for them, and when they detect a problem, they send the patient to see a lawyer at their medical-legal partnership, the Tucson Family Advocacy Program. While a doctor focuses on a cancer patient’s chemotherapy, an attorney working with health care providers can ensure that disability benefits are in place to help the family afford food if illness interferes with employment and ensure that advanced directives are created.

We cannot ask health care providers to address all the factors that make people sick, nor is there a fix to every source of stress. But we can recognize the broader impact of illness on a person’s life and the outside factors that interfere with their medical care and recovery. This means rethinking who is on the health care team and how we coordinate care across professions, and yes, maybe even looking to lawyers to reduce stress.