Blog Post (NATIONAL)
Ellen Lawton, Megan Sandel
June 5, 2014
Link to story
Tags: Health Care, Housing: Landlord-Tenant, Medical-Legal Partnerships
Organizations mentioned/involved: National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership (NCMLP)
We’re starting to understand that poverty causes illness, not just for individuals, but for whole communities. Yet we talk about the effects of substandard housing, poor nutrition, and violence in a vacuum separate from the laws and policies that create and perpetuate these problems in the first place. And then we ask health care to clean up the mess.
To better treat and prevent expensive and prevalent health problems, doctors and nurses need two things: a specialist to address the problems they uncover when they screen patients for social barriers to health, and help enforcing laws and changing policies that create these problems in the first place. Who can help? Civil legal aid attorneys. More than 230 hospitals and health centers across the country have made lawyers part of their health care teams through medical-legal partnerships (MLP).
If we are going to ask health care to do more to prevent illness then we have to be honest about where poor health originates, and we have to give doctors and nurses tools and partners to treat the problems they identify. Most important, we have to consider the health of individuals and our communities in every conversation and every policy about housing, education and food. We can’t just expect health care to clean up the aftermath of whatever we decide.