Medical-legal partnership: impact on patients with sickle cell disease

Pediatrics. 2011 Dec;128(6):e1482-8. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-0082. Epub 2011 Nov 14.


Objective: To determine the types of legal problems addressed by the Health Law Partnership (HeLP) and the impact of the legal interventions in pediatric patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) or its variants. We hypothesized that an interdisciplinary team that includes lawyers would positively affect the social determinants of health that affect patients with SCD.

Methods: The HeLP database was retrospectively queried for all patients with the diagnosis of SCD or 1 of its variants who had been seen by the lawyers of HeLP between April 2004 and September 2010. Data collected in this cohort of patients included income level of the patient/client, the initial presenting problems, any patient/parent/guardian problems identified during the legal checkup, and the type of legal assistance provided. Estimated annualized financial outcomes were calculated.

Results: From April 2004 through September 2010, 71 parents/guardians with 76 children with SCD were referred to the HeLP for legal intervention. Of the 71 parents/guardians, 33 were at <100% of the federal poverty level. There were 106 initial case problems identified in the 71 parents/guardians; 51 of 106 problems were directly related to the child. An additional 93 issues were identified during the legal checkup. Of 106 cases, 99 were closed with 21 resulting in a measurable gain of benefits.

Conclusions: In a cohort of families of children with SCD, incorporating access to legal services as part of the care plan resulted in a positive impact on these patients/parents/guardians. The impact was directly attributable to the intervention of the HeLP.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell* / therapy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Delivery of Health Care / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Female
  • Georgia
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Care Team*
  • Records
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Socioeconomic Factors