A PHS 795 student introduced me to the concept of Medical Legal Partnerships (MLPs), which integrate health services with the delivery of legal services (including help with, for example, housing code violations, domestic violence interventions, application for public health insurance, etc) in addition to health care services. Our student writes:
The community health center I worked at the past 2 years, was working on putting together the infrastructure to have their own medical legal partnership. As a future physician, I think this type of collaboration is essential to addressing health disparities.
This article [medical-legal-partnerships] looks at how health care is changing. “For too long, society has ignored the extent to which social determinants of health (SDH)—the conditions in which people live, learn, work, and play—are inextricably woven into and affect individual and population health.” The social determinants make improving the health of an individual and the health of the population too great of a challenge for a physician in a short clinic visit. There are too many factors influencing the health and wellness of populations. Health professionals can only address and treat what a patient presents in the clinical setting. But when the ailment would be treated more effectively with a change in the patient’s home environment or social situation, how does the physician or health professional make that recommendation or change that environment?
One-way health professionals are working to address social determinants of health are through Medical Legal Partnerships (MLP). MLPs bring together the ability to treat health conditions of physicians with the ability to address legal needs of lawyers. In a medical legal partnership, the physician would “write a prescription” to the partnering lawyer stating the need for legal intervention. From here the lawyer, can proceed with legal action until the situation is resolved.
MLPs can work to address legal issues such as housing, healthcare access, citizenship, domestic issues, and any other situation that is causing a negative impact on the patient’s health.
The situation of every person is different, and for some, simply changing apartments or pursuing legal action on their own is not feasible. Patients may feel intimated, threatened, or unable to stand up for themselves due to a host of barriers, and MLPs provide people the opportunity and support to improve their health free from these barriers.