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In 2017, MedStar Health joined a group of eight institutions, brought together by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), to plan and evaluate strategies to produce coordinated systems for community health. Over three years, members participated in a series of workshops titled Building a Systems Approach to Community Health and Health Equity for Academic Medical Centers. This topic is closely tied to MedStar Health Research Institute’s mission to advance the health of our community through research.
With collaborators from Georgetown University, the team investigated medical-legal partnerships as a method to address issues of health equity and community health. A medical-legal partnership is an inter-professional healthcare delivery model that adds legal services to health care to help doctors address “health-harming legal needs”, which encompass social determinants of health that contribute to poor health and health disparities. The research included qualitative and quantitative data centered around patients at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center (MFSMC) and its Family Health Center (FHC) in Baltimore, Maryland. Some risk factors for health-harming legal needs include low socioeconomic status, caring for young children, homeless, and elderly. Legal issues that arise from these social determinants of health include custody, domestic violence, health insurance, and eviction.
At the end of June, the entire team received an award for their participation at a dinner and the work was presented at the final meeting for participating sites by Deliya Wesley, PhD, MPH (Health Equity investigator), Angela D. Thomas, DrPH, MPH, MBA (Assistant Vice President, Healthcare Delivery Research, MHRI) and Vicki W. Girard, JD (Founding Co-Director, Georgetown University Health Justice Alliance and a Professor of Law, Legal Practice).
The team presented their research at the 2019 MedStar Health-Georgetown University Research Symposium. The poster, “An Empirical Approach to Planning for Medical-Legal Partnerships (MLPs): Initial Findings from the MedStar Franklin Square Service Area,” can be viewed here.
While the work the team is conducting under the oversight of AAMC is completed, they will be continuing their work into identifying costs that would be associated with implementing a medical-legal partnership, including potential savings for the system.