Medical-Legal Strategy Can Improve Health Care of Low-Income Parents of Newborns

n the U.S., roughly 45 percent of children are born into poor or low-income families, and children's health suffers when basic needs such as food, housing and utilities are not met. A new approach to health care for low-income families of newborns that addresses their concrete needs also led to better adherence to recommended well-child checkups and fewer emergency department visits.

As described in the study, "Medical-Legal Strategies to Improve Infant Health Care: A Randomized Tria," published in the July 2015 issue of Pediatrics (published online June 1), researchers paired families of newborns with a family specialist who visited with the family during routine well visits, at one home visit, and during email, text and phone communications.

At the time of their child's birth, most of the study participants reported at least one hardship, such as food insecurity, housing concerns, or trouble paying utility bills, and many families had multiple hardships. Parents who were paired with a family specialist reported better success obtaining access to services such as utility assistance, food support programs and other resources.

Researchers conclude the program offers a promising method of delivering services that improves the quality of preventive health care.