How Embedding Attorneys in Health Systems Can Help Patients and Underserved Communities

There are now more than 330 medical-legal partnerships across the U.S. Health systems are embedding attorneys in health systems to help individual patients and underserved communities, says Joel Teitelbaum, JD, LLM in an interview with U.S. News & World Report.

The nonmedical factors that affect health which are being addressed by social and legal services linked to health systems include housing, transportation and access to care. In the interview, Teitelbaum, who serves as the co-director of the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, connects the work of medical-legal partnerships to population health by describing ways that law and the structures it creates are key determinants of health.

“If I had my way, there would be training not only around public health and population health in medical school – and there has been more of that over time – but also talking about social and structural barriers to good health,” Teitelbaum says. “They really, at their core, are caused by legal failures or have remedies in civil law.”

If Teitelbaum’s vision is realized, he believes that “when clinicians of all sorts – doctors, nurses, patient navigators, community health workers, social workers and public health officials – all come out of their various trainings, they'd understand there are social and legal needs that have legal remedies and are best addressed by those trained in the law.”

The Q&A interview can be found here.