Skip to main content

Health and law symposium looks at impact of poverty and other social determinants on public health



INDIANAPOLIS Conditions of daily life, such as a person’s education, wealth, housing and employment opportunities, impact that individual’s health and as such are considered social determinants of health.

The organizers of this year’s Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law Health Law Review Symposium argue that a better understanding of these social determinants and how professional groups can work together to improve these conditions will promote improved public health.

The symposium, Interprofessional Collaboration in Public Health Law and Policy: Moving the Needle on Social Determinants of Health, takes place Friday at the McKinney School, located on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus.

The classic example of the impact of a social determinant would be that of a child suffering from severe asthma, said Heather McCabe, an assistant professor of social work at Indiana University. “A doctor can prescribe medicines, but they will be generally ineffective if the child is living in poverty and being exposed to lead paint and roaches, whose excrement exacerbates asthma,” McCabe said. “Unless we solve the social determinants of health, we will not be able to move the medical needle.”

According to Nicolas Terry, Hall Render Professor of Law and the executive director of the McKinney School of Law’s nationally ranked Hall Center for Law and Health, “The conference is about tackling novel approaches to addressing these and related issues.” The symposium is sponsored by the McKinney School in collaboration with the Indiana Health Law Review, the IU Fairbanks School of Public Health, the IU School of Social Work, and the IU Center for Interprofessional Health Education and Practice.

Conference speakers reflect this professional diversity. “Rather than look to law, public health, medicine or social work acting alone, we need to work together,” Terry said. “The conference posits that interprofessional collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas are preferable for tackling many of these social determinants of health and public-health issues.”

Symposium sessions run from 8:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. in the Wynne Courtroom at the law school’s building, Inlow Hall, 530 W. New York St.

Professor Charity Scott of Georgia State University College of Law will present the keynote address, “Incorporating Lawyers on the Interprofessional Team to Promote Health and Health Equity,” at 9 a.m.

Andrea Pfeifle, assistant dean and director of the IU Center for Interprofessional Health Education and Practice and associate professor of family medicine, will deliver the luncheon address.

Registration is available through the McKinney School of Law website. General registration fee is $25. Attorney registration fee, which carries with it 5.0 hours of CLE, is $75.  Registration is complimentary for Indiana University students, faculty and staff.