Learning What It's Like to Live in Poverty to Improve Patient Health

Health & Disability Advocates Brings “Poverty Simulation” to Medical Students and Staff at Lurie Children's Hospital


Chicago, IL -- (SBWIRE) -- 03/01/2013 -- Health & Disability Advocates (HDA), a national health, education and employment nonprofit based in Chicago, is working closely with the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital to provide a unique and valuable educational and professional development opportunity for medical residents and staff at one of the top children’s hospitals nationwide. Both organizations have a rich history of collaborating together to improve health outcomes for some of the most at-risk and medically-complex children in metropolitan Chicago.

The “Poverty Simulation,” is a role-playing workshop that introduces people to the experiences of a typical low-income family trying to survive from month-to-month. The training will be conducted on Lurie’s third annual Advocacy Day on February 28, 2013 for medical residents across the Chicagoland region, and March 1st, 2013 among Lurie staff at the new hospital site. Participants are cast in various roles in families facing poverty. Each family unit is tasked to provide food, shelter and other basic necessities while interacting with various community resources and challenges. The training will be conducted by Tiela Chalmers, who has used the “Poverty Simulation” to train thousands of attorneys, social service providers, students and others interested in serving vulnerable children, adults and families more effectively.  This will be her first foray into training medical residents.

When faced with the day-to-day realities of families experiencing daily instability, participants experience the heightened anxiety and stress stemming from a lack of money and resources. “Many families we work with live in poverty,” says Lurie pediatrician Dr. Barbara Bayldon, “As providers of care we sometimes have a limited understanding of the frustrations our families experience. That’s why teaching current and future providers to address what researchers call the “social determinants of health” – the circumstances in which a person is born, grows up, gets educated, lives, works and ages – is absolutely necessary to improve patient health of those born into poverty.”

Walking a mile in the shoes of their clients not only provides invaluable lessons learned to professionals who work with poor populations. It will also be especially relevant as some crucial provisions of the health reform law were designed to incent quality and patient safety measures. The Affordable Care Act will require hospitals to improve both patient satisfaction and health outcomes as part of shifting reimbursement strategies.

Health & Disability Advocates has been working with medical partners such as Lurie for over a decade to improve health outcomes for vulnerable children and families. They launched the Chicago Medical-Legal Partnership for Children, one of the first “medical-legal partnerships” in the nation. This innovative venture joins medical care, social support services and expert legal assistance to promote a continuum of care.  Says attorney and project director, Amy Zimmerman, “Before the medical-legal partnership began, doctors we work with told us that they avoided asking questions that could generate legal referrals, because they had nowhere to send the families they treat …Legal problems felt insurmountable, and they reported feeling incapable of doing more to help families. Now, they are empowered. And the families in turn, have a true ‘medical home’ – where services are coordinated to cohesively meet their needs.”

Bringing the “Poverty Simulator” to the medical professionals is the latest in the commitment of Lurie and Health & Disability Advocates to improving community health.  Notably, Health & Disability Advocates is well known for combining individual legal representation, training of community providers and sound policy development to promote better earning, learning, wellness and integrated community living. “Health reform and collaborating across sectors hold powerful opportunities to improve the earning, learning and wellness of vulnerable people,” adds Barbara Otto, CEO of Health & Disability Advocates, “We hope this becomes a model for resident education nationwide.”

About Health & Disability Advocates
Health & Disability Advocates is a national organization, based in Chicago, Illinois, that promotes income security, work and educational opportunities, and improves healthcare access and services for vulnerable populations, including children, people with disabilities and low-income, older adults. Its team of legal and policy experts provides a range of services including individual legal representation and custom trainings and technical assistance to consumers, businesses, service providers and state agencies. Contact Jill Wohl at (312)-265-9087 or Amy Zimmerman at (312) 265-9075 for more information.

Please note that this press release has been revised from its original content.