February 11, 2011
"Adding lawyers to the health care team to promote health and wellness in society is not an intuitive approach for many health professionals," observes Professor Sylvia B. Caley, Director of the Health Law Partnership (HeLP) and co-Director of the HeLP Legal Services Clinic at Georgia State Law.
Nonetheless, it is the approach that she, Professor Lisa R. Bliss, co-Director of the HeLP Legal Services Clinic, and Robert Pettignano, M.D., HeLP’s medical champion and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Emory University, advocated at a highly successful workshop at the International Conference on Health, Wellness and Society, held at the University of California, Berkeley, in January 2011.
Their presentation, "Innovative Healthcare: Multidisciplinary Care That Includes Lawyers on the Team," explored the ways in which lawyers and physicians can collaborate to improve children’s health and well-being.
Using HeLP as a model, the faculty illustrated the steps in developing a community collaboration. "Our goal was to give a road map of the process, from the early steps of germinating an idea, cultivating partners, and defining roles and expectations, to sustaining the collaboration through fundraising and evaluation of its outcomes," said Bliss. "We emphasized that the key to building a community collaboration is the development of relationships with many collaborators over time."
"We also wanted to share one of our biggest lessons learned: that interdisciplinary collaboration yields benefits not only for the populations served by the collaborators, but also for the professionals themselves," added Bliss.
Participants in the conference included physicians, researchers, educators, social workers, and other medical professionals. "Attendance at our session was phenomenal," said Pettignano. "Our HeLP program generated a tremendous amount of interest." Countries represented included the US, UK, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Australia, Israel, Turkey, South Africa, Ireland, Uganda, Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, Taiwan, South Korea, Iran, and others.
"It’s important for doctors to partner with lawyers because we take a preventive law approach to the public’s health," said Caley. "Through legal avenues, we can often address the social and economic factors that affect people’s health and well being."
A related paper, "An Interdisciplinary Collaborative Approach to Wellness: Adding Lawyers to the Healthcare Team to Provide Integrated Care for Patients," will be published in the International Journal of Health, Wellness and Society.