Keeping the Heat on for Children's Health: A Successful Medical-Legal Partnership Initiative to Prevent Utility Shutoffs in Vulnerable Children

J Health Care Poor Underserved. 2015 Aug;26(3):676-85. doi: 10.1353/hpu.2015.0074.


Objective: Energy insecurity may result in adverse consequences for children's health, particularly for children with special health needs or chronic health conditions. We aimed to determine whether a multimodal intervention addressing energy insecurity within the framework of a medical-legal partnership (MLP) resulted in an increase in the provision of certifications of medical need for utility coverage in an inner city academic primary care practice.

Methods: Working within a medical-legal partnership, we standardized criteria for providers approving medical need utility certification requests. We compared prior-year utility certification requests and approvals (pre-intervention) with the intervention year for families who reported energy insecurity on a waiting-room screening questionnaire.

Results: Between the first and second years of the study, certification of medical need approvals increased by 65%, preventing utility shut-offs for 396 more families with vulnerable children.

Conclusions: Energy insecurity can be screened for and addressed in a busy urban practice, potentially improving the wellbeing of vulnerable children.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Health*
  • Health Promotion / organization & administration*
  • Heating*
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Lawyers / psychology
  • Physicians / psychology
  • Poverty
  • Program Evaluation
  • United States
  • Vulnerable Populations*