2007 Spring, Pg. 75. Improving the Health of Children in Poverty Through Legal Advocacy.

AuthorBy Attorney Cheryl Driscoll

New Hampshire Bar Journal


2007 Spring, Pg. 75.

Improving the Health of Children in Poverty Through Legal Advocacy

New Hampshire Bar JournalSpring 2007, Volume 48, No. 1Health Care & the LawImproving the Health of Children in Poverty Through Legal AdvocacyBy Attorney Cheryl DriscollINTRODUCTION

Families living in poverty require special intervention to ensure that their needs are met and that children are able to grow and develop.(fn1) Sometimes that intervention can occur entirely within the health care system, and a pediatrician is able to advocate for the kinds of changes needed to positively impact the health of a child. However children, especially those living in poverty, often face social and economic problems that have a great impact on their health and development, but that fall outside the influence of even the most advocacy-minded pediatrician. Sub-standard housing, lack of health insurance, denial of needed income or nutritional benefits, domestic violence, lack of access to special education services, and immigration issues all can negatively impact child health and threaten family stability in a profound way.(fn2) While there are laws on the books to ensure that the poor have access to needed services, government bureaucracies, school officials and landlords often treat the poor unfairly. Poor families and their pediatricians don't have the time or skills to negotiate with these institutions or individuals. However, legal services lawyers do have those skills.

Health care providers and public-interest attorneys working together can remove social and environmental barriers that directly impact child health, growth and development and affect the prevention and treatment of illness among children living in poverty. Recognizing the great benefit of a medical-legal partnership, New Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA) has teamed up with Child Health Services (CHS) to create the New Hampshire Health Law Collaborative (NHHLC) - a program designed to combine the skills of pediatricians who serve poor children in Manchester, New Hampshire with those of attorneys who can help solve civil legal issues that impact child health.


The NHHLC is modeled on the Medical Legal Partnership for Children (MLPC) in Boston. Formerly the Family Advocacy Program, the MLPC was established in 1993 by Boston Medical Center's pediatric department. The MLPC is nationally recognized, and has been replicated in over 45 other sites across the country, including...

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