Publication Details How Medical-Legal Partnerships Can Promote Public Health and Health Justice

Medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) are a powerful tool for promoting public health and health justice that can both improve low-income families’ health and effect policy change at the institutional and community levels, according to an article published in Public Health Reports.

“Public health practitioners are increasingly embracing law and policy as important tools for improving public health and promoting health equity,” says Joel Teitelbaum, JD, LLM, associate professor of Health Policy and Management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. According to the school’s National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership, for which Teitelbaum serves as co-director, MLPs are active in about 330 hospitals and health centers in 46 states.

“In response to ever-growing evidence of multi-level health inequities, lawyers, public health professionals and policy makers are exploring more effective ways to shape, measure and enforce laws that have the greatest positive effect on disadvantaged populations,” Teitelbaum says.

Teitelbaum and his coauthor, Elizabeth Tobin-Tyler of Brown University, describe opportunities for MLP-public health collaborations to improve public health and policies. “Because MLPs detect policy failures ‘on the ground,’ they can be critically important partners to public health professionals in identifying, targeting, and strategizing about laws and policy changes most likely to advance health justice,” they write.

The article goes on to describe multi-state collaborations that are taking place to impact policy, such as one currently underway to address high rates of childhood lead poisoning with strategies to improve lead screening rates.

Teitelbaum and Tobin-Tyler are also authors of a book about social and structural determinants of health, health equity, social justice, health policy, and systems of care for underserved populations.

“Medical-Legal Partnership: A Powerful Tool for Public Health and Health Justice,” is available here.