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Editorial: 'Legal Eagles' program goes beyond medical diagnosis in treatment

By Editorial Board
On October 27, 2013

You rarely hear questions like "is money an issue in your home?" or " do you have enough food in your fridge" from medical doctors. But due to a new advocacy program, medical doctors have had the luxury of extending their care past the examination room.
A doctor's work is meaningless when the same patients keep coming in for the same illness, over and over again. A group of doctors at the Boston Medical Center were fed up treating children in their office, only to have them come in again because they were unable to eradicate the external source of the illness. Certain chronic illnesses such as "asthma, cerebral palsy and diabetes are often exacerbated by environmental factors like lack of food, housing, education and employment" according to Boston Children's Hospital's pediatric health blog.
The doctors thus decided to hire a group of lawyers who pushed to advocate for these children and their families. Known as the "Legal Eagles" they are "writing letters to utility companies, helping families access food stamps and communicating with landlords about poor housing conditions," Dr. Joanne Cox, medical director of the Children's Hospital Primary Care Center said.
This new resource allowed doctors ask questions that not only pertained to their physical body but also to their environment.
Before this new program, doctors were unable to ask questions about their patient's lives because doctors did not have the power to do anything about their patient's environment. However, with this new powerful tool, doctors are able to ask questions that focus on the sociological health factors of their patients, allowing doctors to extend their care past the examination room, and truly impact on their patient's lives.
This program was also adopted in Hartford, at the Connecticut Children's medical center. The Center for Children Advocacy is a private group, and receives no money from the government, because they "make sure that the government is doing their job" Martha Stone, the Programs Director said.
These programs are aimed to support mainly low-income families and by doing so, families can live a better life, and not continually spend it in a doctor's waiting room. In addition, these programs save taxpayer money because they eradicate the source of illness, and thus less welfare money has to be spent on treatment, which is more expensive than prevention. Programs such as these should be adopted nationwide.  

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