Resources for Children’s Hospitals

This page provides team members and administrators with information about how medical-legal partnerships are advancing the mission of children’s hospitals, as well as resources for developing a partnership at their children’s hospital.

Medical-Legal Partnership Helps Children’s Hospitals Meet Their Mission

Forty-two children’s hospitals have developed medical-legal partnerships; that’s more than one in five of every children’s hospital in the United States. By adopting an integrated approach to patient care that includes healthcare, public health and legal services, medical-legal partnerships help children’s hospitals meet their missions by:

  • Enabling health care practitioners work at the top of their licensure. Health care practitioners are able to focus their efforts on a patient’s health needs rather than social or legal issues, like food insecurity and unsafe housing, that would otherwise inhibit the delivery of healthcare.
  • Enhancing the quality of care. Medical-legal partnerships help develop social determinants of health screening questions, enhance the Electronic Medical Record, and develop toolkits to help healthcare team members manage the range of problems that vulnerable patients experience outside the four walls of the hospital – from safe housing to access to basic safety net benefits.
  • Empowering patients and families to participate in care. Medical-legal partnerships build trust and engagement between patients, families, and the care team. Participants in medical-legal partnerships across all care settings are often more vocal about the social problems affecting their health and learn to be self-advocates.
  • Educating the next generation of pediatric primary care and subspecialists. MLP has been shown to address many ACGME competency requirements and improve quality of education. Students are engaged in work on both individual and system changes to improve the health of patients and populations.

The American Academy of Pediatrics passed a resolution “encouraging closer and more frequent collaboration between legal service and medical professionals,” and specifically promoted medical-legal partnership as a strategy to improve the health and well-being of children. Medical-legal partnership has also been endorsed by the American Medical Association. Click here to learn more.

Stories from the Field

Watch Dr. Bob Pettignano, MD, MBA from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta share how a pediatric patient’s heart transplant was dependent on a change of guardianship, and how after having a medical-legal partnership at the hospital, “There is no way we are going back.”

At Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, having a medical-legal partnership on-site helps kids manage their asthma.  One summer, it also helped improve housing and health for dozens of families. Read the full story on The New York Times Fixes Blog.

Resources Specifically for Children’s Hospitals

Webinar: “Addressing Pediatric Social Determinants of Health with Medical-Legal Partnership”
Watch the recording [60 minutes]

Children’s hospitals are in a position to address the risk factors that disproportionately affect child health. Medical care alone is not sufficient to deal with the complex needs that many at-risk children and their families face. This webinar by the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership (NCMLP) addresses the role that partnerships with civil legal aid can play in addressing the social determinants of health, and how these medical-legal partnerships (MLP) can help pediatric settings provide high quality and low cost care.

Article: “Keeping the Heat on for Children’s Health: A Successful Medical–Legal Partnership Initiative to Prevent Utility Shutoffs in Vulnerable Children”
Read the article

Energy insecurity may result in adverse consequences for children’s health, particularly for children with special health needs or chronic health conditions. This article by the Philadelphia Medical-Legal Partnership examines whether a multimodal intervention by a medical–legal partnership increased the provision of certifications of medical need for utility coverage in an inner city academic primary care practice.

Article: “Identifying and Treating a Substandard Housing Cluster Using a Medical-Legal Partnership”
Read the article

This article by the Cincinnati Child Health-Law Partnership examined a cluster of substandard housing identified, and treated it with medical-legal partnership in a pediatric primary care setting. Out of the 45 children living in the 16 MLP identified case units, 36 percent had asthma, 33 percent had developmental delay or behavioral disorder, and 9 percent had an elevated lead level. The MLP was able to identify and improve home environmental conditions for these children.

Article: “Can Access to Medical-Legal Partnership Benefit Patients with Asthma Who Live in an Urban Community?”
Read the article

Low-income children are more likely to suffer worse asthma outcomes because of their socioeconomic status and environmental exposures. By addressing their legal concerns, The Health Law Partnership (HeLP) improved access to medical services and reduced family stress. This medical-legal partnership found financial ($501,209) and non-financial benefits as a result of attorney intervention.

Article: “Health, Education, Advocacy, and Law: An Innovative Approach to Improving Outcomes for Low-Income Children with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities”
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This article presents an innovative medical-legal partnership program called Project Heal, in which advocates and attorneys work closely with healthcare professionals in a pediatric setting to improve implementation of clinical recommendations and outcomes for low-income children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The authors explain how incorporating advocacy and legal services directly into a clinical setting provides better outcomes for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities who might not otherwise have access to critically needed services.

Article: “Housing Code Violation Density Associated with Emergency Department and Hospital Use by Children with Asthma”
Read the article

This article by the Cincinnati Child Health-Law Partnership discussed the integration of housing and health data to highlight at-risk areas and patients for targeted interventions. Local agencies that enforce housing policies can partner with the health care organizations to pinpoint potential clusters of high asthma morbidity. An assessment showed whether the density of housing code violations was associated with population-level asthma morbidity and if it could be used to predict a hospitalized patient’s risk of subsequent morbidity.