Medical-legal partnership: collaborating with lawyers to identify and address health disparities

J Gen Intern Med. 2010 May;25 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):S136-9. doi: 10.1007/s11606-009-1239-7.


Introduction: Medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) bring together medical professionals and lawyers to address social causes of health disparities, including access to adequate food, housing and income.

Setting: Eighty-one MLPs offer legal services for patients whose basic needs are not being met.

Program description: Besides providing legal help to patients and working on policy advocacy, MLPs educate residents (29 residency programs), health care providers (160 clinics and hospitals) and medical students (25 medical schools) about how social conditions affect health and screening for unmet basic needs, and how these needs can often be impacted by enforcing federal and state laws. These curricula include medical school courses, noon conferences, advocacy electives and CME courses.

Program evaluation: Four example programs are described in this paper. Established MLPs have changed knowledge (MLP | Boston-97% reported screening for two unmet needs), attitudes (Stanford reported reduced concern about making patients "nervous" with legal questions from 38% to 21%) and behavior (NY LegalHealth reported increasing resident referrals from 15% to 54%) after trainings. One developing MLP found doctors experienced difficulty addressing social issues (NJ LAMP-67% of residents felt uncomfortable).

Discussion: MLPs train residents, students and other health care providers to tackle socially caused health disparities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Healthcare Disparities* / methods
  • Healthcare Disparities* / standards
  • Humans
  • Lawyers* / education
  • Lawyers* / standards
  • Legislation, Medical* / standards
  • Physicians* / standards
  • Program Evaluation / methods
  • Program Evaluation / standards