Course - Law


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The best medical care alone cannot prevent or solve all health problems.  Improving health for poor and vulnerable populations depends not only on access to quality medical care, but also on understanding and addressing the social determinants of health – how the societal conditions in which people live and work affects their health and well-being. One promising approach to addressing the social determinants of health is medical-legal partnership.  Working together, healthcare providers and lawyers can more effectively help vulnerable individuals and families obtain the benefits and services they need to improve health and wellbeing.  By incorporating lawyers into healthcare settings, medical-legal partnership also offers an opportunity for “preventive law” as a natural corollary to “preventive medicine”. Identifying and addressing legal issues and barriers early may prevent the need for more expensive and intensive legal and medical services later on.

Through such topics as poverty and public benefits, safe and affordable housing, family violence and child safety, and the rights of people with disabilities, this class will explore how lawyers can engage in creative problem-solving with doctors to promote justice for families and improve health. What is the relationship between health and social justice? What are the benefits of medical-legal partnership to address social and health disparities? What benefits, challenges and issues arise for lawyers and doctors practicing in an interdisciplinary setting?

Opportunities for practical interdisciplinary problem solving will be provided throughout the semester.  Several of the course sessions will be conducted jointly with students from the University of Arizona College of Medicine. In the joint classes, law and medical students will learn about the connections among poverty, health and law, and practice collaborative medical-legal approaches to problem-solving through case simulations. Guest lecturers and facilitators, both legal and non-legal, will be used to explore the interdisciplinary nature of the topics.


Poverty, Health and Law

Course Format


Written Assignments

Reflection papers, final project

Type of Exam

No exam

Basis for grading

Class participation, reflection papers, class presentation, final project

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