Improving Health by Combining Medicine and Law

Feb 28, 2013, 3:16 PM

A new article published by the Association of American Medical Colleges highlights the important work of medical-legal partnerships. These efforts improve the health and well-being of low-income and other vulnerable populations by addressing unmet legal needs that can impact health, such as substandard housing and difficulty accessing public assistance programs.

According to the article, the partnerships integrate law students and lawyers into the health care team to provide direct legal assistance to patients, develop and align legal strategies develop and help change policies so that underserved people can get and stay healthy.

There are now more than 100 medical-legal partnerships around the U.S. that serve more than 50,000 patients each year at 275-plus health institutions.

Anne Ryan, JD, founder and director of the Tucson Family Advocacy Program based at the University of Arizona Medical Center-Alvernon Family Medicine Clinic, says her cases have included helping patients who were denied disability benefits, food stamps and Medicaid assistance as well as denied coverage by their insurer.

>>Learn more about the partnerships from the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership, which is based at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Policy and supported in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.