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Providing Legal Services in Clinical Settings Can Help Promote Health Equity, According to New Research in 'Health Affairs'

Monday, March 05, 2018

Providing Legal Services in Clinical Settings Can Help Promote Health Equity, According to New Research in 'Health Affaris'

"Research published by the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership (NCMLP) at the Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) today in Health Affairs shares how more than 300 hospitals, health centers, and clinics across the U.S. are using legal services to address patients’ unmet social needs. The article is part of the journal’s issue on advancing health equity, and highlights different approaches health care organizations take to implement medical-legal partnerships that place civil legal aid professionals into the health care setting to treat issues—including housing, access to insurance, and stable guardianship—that drive health inequities.

The researchers drew on national survey findings and field research to identify multiple models for delivering legal services in clinical settings. They found that different health care organizations—from pediatric primary care clinics serving low-income neighborhoods, to health centers with highly specialized programs for complex, chronic conditions—adapt medical-legal partnership services to meet the specific needs of their patients.

“For years, pilot studies have shown the extreme promise of medical-legal partnership to address some of patients’ most seemingly intractable social problems,” said Marsha Regenstein, PhD, Professor of Health Policy and Management at the George Washington University‘s Milken Institute SPH and Director of Research for NCMLP. “What this research illustrates is that medical-legal partnership is a flexible intervention, and that health care is figuring out a variety of different ways to leverage it to best serve the needs of different patient populations.”

While the models of delivery vary, the paper’s authors identified eight core elements that define the medical-legal partnership intervention. These include the use of training to bridge clinicians understanding of when legal help is best deployed, and the presence of lawyers on-site in the clinical setting to help legal staff better understand the challenges patients face..."

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