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

There is an increasing consensus that social determinants affect health outcomes. The Register column by David P. Lind and Dr. Yogesh Shah [How to address rising healthcare costs: Invest at the source, Nov. 20] rightly pointed out that “to meaningfully address health care costs in Iowa and beyond, we must consider new approaches. . .”  The article suggests that meaningful change will be brought about only by “balancing health care with social determinant strategies.”

The social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.  Many of the health issues patients experience result from unenforced laws or erroneous denial of vital services.  Being denied disability benefits, food stamps and health insurance directly bars families from obtaining needed medications or food. Tenants facing utility shut-offs can no longer refrigerate medications.  Living in housing infested with insects, rodents, or mold can cause asthma, allergies or migraines.  Sustaining injuries from domestic violence can require repeated visits to emergency rooms.

By addressing patients’ complex social issues, the need for health care services are addressed, stress is reduced, access to preventative medicine is increased and general well-being is improved.  Many of these complex social issues can best be addressed through the creation of medical legal partnerships.

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