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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

GW Research: Providing Legal Services in Clinical Settings Can Help Promote Health Equity

Research published by the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership (NCMLP) at the George Washington University (GW) Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) 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, published in Health Affairs, 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 Dr. Marsha Regenstein, professor of health policy and management at 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.”

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