Health Law Partnership (HeLP) Education Programmes

The Health Law Partnership (HeLP) in Georgia in the Southern United States is a recognised innovator and leader in the development of public health legal services.

Read about the Health Law Partnership

HeLP was the first medical-legal community partnership for children in the South. They provide free civil legal services to low-income children (and their guardians) who are patients of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and an educational partnership to promote public health through interdisciplinary teaching and learning.

This inspiring project is based upon the basic premise that lawyers can intervene to improve the physical, social, and economic environments in which many low-income children live, resulting in their improved health and quality of life. By combining the healthcare expertise of hospital professionals with the legal expertise of lawyers, HeLP provides a coordinated and integrated set of services to address the multiple determinants of children’s health. HeLP has four goals:

  • to improve health outcomes for low-income children through the establishment of on-site public health legal services offices at children’s hospital campuses;
  • to foster knowledge, understanding, and a cooperative spirit between the healthcare and legal professions to promote children’s health through interdisciplinary educational programs, including in-service education for healthcare professionals;
  • to improve low-income children’s access to healthcare and the conditions that affect their health through a program of legal and policy advocacy, including advocacy at the legislative, policy-making, and government agency levels;
  • to serve as a model demonstration program for interdisciplinary community collaborations that seek to promote the public’s health.

Education Programmes

HeLP’s educational programme has two aims:

(1) to increase knowledge about the legal, ethical, and policy issues affecting the health and well-being of low-income children; and

(2) to foster respect, understanding, and a cooperative spirit among the healthcare and legal professions.

HeLP’s Legal Services Clinic provides a supportive learning environment for law students to develop practical skills in substantive legal fields relating to children. They focus on the social and economic barriers to optimum health, exploring federal and state laws and policies that can affect children’s health and well being, such as public benefits, income support, health insurance, family law, employment, housing and education.

Students participate in the Clinic for course credit. They develop skills such as client interviewing, counselling, and representation; research and drafting; and case management.

Law students who are enrolled in other law schools, as well as other professional or graduate students who are enrolled in medicine, public health, nursing, and social work are invited to apply through their schools to participate in the HeLP externship programme.

HeLP also provide education seminars to social workers at the hospitals on the type of legal problems HeLP assist with. A wide range of education topics are covers, such as bankruptcy, benefits, homelessness, special educational needs, and family law issues and policies.

More about the Education Programmes run by the Health Law Partnership.

Determinants of children’s health

HeLP’s approach is based on the belief that the social, economic, and physical conditions in which children live can all seriously affect a child’s health. There are several examples. Poor housing conditions – the existence of unsanitary conditions or lack of heat – can exacerbate health conditions like asthma. Poverty can prevent children or their families from obtaining needed medications and other medical treatment. Lack of protection from domestic violence can result in serious injury. Failure to protect the legal rights of developmentally disabled children can lead to their inability to get remedial special education or other needed services.

An evaluation of HeLP’s activities in 2008 showed that in nearly 40% of cases, clients experienced more than one problem or issue. Family law, disability, benefits and medical insurance, housing and ‘other’ were the most prevalent problems recorded. 58% of clients were unemployed, 32.9% of clients reported experiencing mental health, physical health, or learning problems/issues – of these 28% indicated that it affected their ability work.

The Health Law Partnership (HeLP) began in 2005. It is interdisciplinary community collaboration between the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and Georgia State University College of Law.

More about the Health Law Partnership.

Published: 18 October 2016

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