As a preliminary investigation of the effectiveness of medical-legal partnership in pediatrics, we conducted a 36-month prospective cohort study of the impact of clinic- and hospital-based legal services. We hypothesized that integration of legal services into pediatric settings would increase families' awareness of and access to legal and social services, decrease barriers to health care for children, and improve child health.
Methods: Health care providers referred families with legal or social needs to the Peninsula Family Advocacy Program (FAP).
Results: Fifty four families completed both baseline and six-month follow-up assessments. Comparison of follow-up with baseline demonstrated significantly increased proportions of families who utilized food and income supports and significantly decreased proportions of families avoiding health care due to lack of health insurance or concerns about cost. Two-thirds of respondents reported improved child health and well-being.
Conclusions: This study suggests that adding an attorney to the medical team increases awareness of and access to social and legal services.