Medical-legal partnerships: transforming primary care by addressing the legal needs of vulnerable populations

Health Aff (Millwood). 2010 Sep;29(9):1697-705. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2010.0038.


Health care is undermined when patients don't receive the benefit of laws intended to address social determinants of health, such as housing and food. Medical-legal partnerships, which now exist in more than 200 clinical sites in the United States, integrate lawyers into health care to address legal problems that create and perpetuate poor health. This paper describes how such medical-legal partnerships can change clinical systems--for example, by adding legal form letters to electronic health records to help low-income patients rectify substandard housing conditions. We recommend the integration of medical-legal partnerships into federal health care programs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers
  • Counseling
  • Hospitals, Pediatric
  • Humans
  • Interinstitutional Relations*
  • Lawyers*
  • Models, Organizational
  • Partnership Practice / organization & administration*
  • Patient Advocacy / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Vulnerable Populations*