Part of the reason I decided to study social policy in college was the fact that I knew that as a doctor, I’d primarily being trying to improve the health of individuals, but I saw far too many individuals for any one me to help. So when I read about the legal aid services for children, and the fact that it’s going national, I couldn’t have been happier.
It turns out that doctors tend to work in a pretty specific realm (the medical one, surprise surprise). But health tends to be affected by multiple realms. Doctors are great advocates for their patients for their medical health–giving medications, for example–but when it comes to more systemic, structural problems, I’d give doctors as a whole an F. That’s why we work with social workers, child life specialists, home health nurses–these people have better footing in the non-medical health arena.
What the Boston legal team has been addressing is another level of advocacy–administrative and regulatory advocacy. This entails ensuring that laws are enforced and people are held responsible for their responsibilities–for example, ensuring that a landlord keeps his apartments’ habitable. Lawyers know how to push the right buttons (and have the time to do so) that often doctors don’t.
It’s possible that these lawyers are having a greater impact on health than the doctors with whom they work.