The social, economic, and physical conditions in which children live can be health-harming. For example, poor housing conditions, such as the existence of unsanitary conditions or lack of heat, can exacerbate health conditions like asthma, the nation’s most common chronic childhood illness. 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.
Georgia ranks 44th in the nation on children’s overall well-being (by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2014 KIDS COUNT), taking into account a variety of key factors affecting children’s health such as poverty, low birthweights and mortality, and teen birth rates.
HeLPs overall goals are four-fold:
HeLP’s FIRST GOAL is to address health-harming legal problems in order to improve health outcomes for low-income children through the establishment of on-site public health legal services offices at Children’s three hospital campuses. The public health legal services staff address basic needs affecting the health of low-income children, such as ensuring that they receive the full state and federal program benefits to which they are entitled, ensuring safe and healthy housing conditions, accessing appropriate educational services, and ensuring freedom from abuse, neglect, or violence.
HeLP’s SECOND GOAL is 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 at Children’s and student education for law students and graduate professional students. The HeLP Legal Services Clinic at Georgia State University’s College of Law as well as externships and practicum placements train future lawyers and healthcare professionals to work together to improve children’s health, especially those from under-served communities.
HeLP’s THIRD GOAL is to improve low-income children’s access to healthcare and the conditions that affect their health through a program of legal and policy systemic advocacy, including advocacy at the legislative, policy-making, and government agency levels. This work focuses on such issues as funding through Medicaid and Peachcare for Kids, health insurance coverage, and other population-based programs designed to improve the overall health and well-being of children. HeLP works with other community groups that can facilitate broad, statewide resolution of access, resource, eligibility, and programmatic issues.
HeLP’s FOURTH GOAL is to serve as a model demonstration program for interdisciplinary community collaborations that seek to promote the public’s health. To achieve this goal, HeLP undertakes on an on-going basis to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of its various program components in order to promote internal quality assurance and continuous quality improvement. HeLP also undertakes research with IRB-approved protocols in order to assess the impact that the program has on the hospitals, outcomes of care, and the health and well-being of the children and families served.