Rajan Anthony Sonik

  • Hosted by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute/ LSC of Harvard
  • Sponsored by Biogen, Mintz
  • Service location Boston, Massachusetts
  • Law school Harvard Law School
  • Issue area Children/Youth, Disability Rights, Medical-Legal Partnership
  • Fellowship class year 2012
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Rajan worked to improve health and education outcomes of low-income children with sickle cell disease (SCD) by leading an innovative effort to understand and meet their interrelated medical, social, and legal needs.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project

More than a quarter of low-income children have a chronic illness. For children with sickle cell disease (SCD), which primarily affects African-Americans, historical and structural racism negatively affects health. SCD receives nine times less funding per person for research and social support than comparable diseases affecting white Americans. Best medical practices for SCD have been disseminated and followed at much lower rates than best practices for other diseases. Children with SCD face challenges to their health in multiple contexts. Detrimental social factors such as education, housing, and income security can adversely affect health even more than access to health care. Studies have shown, for example, that students with SCD are routinely denied basic accommodations to stay healthy and that the severity of their condition is not believed by schools. Integrated medical, social, and legal services foster better health outcomes for children with SCD.

Fellowship Highlights

During his Fellowship, Rajan has:

  • Partnered with pediatric hematologists and social workers at two Boston hospitals to develop and implement a comprehensive social-legal screening and referral system
  • Conducted a formal Institutional Review Board-approved study at both hospitals to examine the effectiveness of the screening/referral system and to detect relationships between social-legal needs, health outcomes, and health care costs
  • Represented 55 clients who have children with SCD
  • Provided brief services and advice to 175 clients
  • Persuaded the Breathe Easy at Home program, a collaboration of Boston city agencies, to add SCD to the list of disorders to which they give priority status during housing inspections
  • Coordinated the effort among local and national physician groups to comment on regulations proposed by the Social Security Administration that would harm patients with SCD
  • Produced educational materials customized for various audiences—families, physicians, teachers, and government agencies—to explain accommodation requirements for children with SCD in K-12 schools, colleges, public housing, and other contexts
  • Raised awareness of SCD issues through community education
  • Helped form a parent-led SCD advocacy group within the Greater Boston Sickle Cell Disease Association

Many argue against universal access to healthcare, but few if any argue against universal access to justice—yet, there is only one lawyer for every 6,415 low-income individuals in the United States.

Rajan Anthony Sonik

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