This year marks the 50th anniversary of the nation’s first health center, the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid, and the passing of both the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. In an article today on the Huffington Post, Ellen Lawton and Dr. H. Jack Geiger trace the shared roots of injustice and poor health, how medical-legal partnership addresses both, and what progress in the next half century requires.
By Ellen Lawton and Dr. H. Jack Geiger
“Sickness and injustice are joined at the hip, like the proverbial Siamese twins. What’s more, they reinforce each other. Half a century ago, we observed that the poor are likelier to be sick, the sick are likelier to be poor and that without intervention, the poor will grow sicker and the sick will grow poorer. We have made great strides in the past 50 years in addressing these connections: the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, the passing of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, and the creation of community health centers as a national health safety net, which now serve 23 million uninsured or low-income patients and rising.
The core problems of poor health and poverty and the gross inequities that underlie them, however, stubbornly persist, and we have significant work still ahead of us to change them. In recent years, we have begun that task with another kind of pairing: health care providers and lawyers working together to address and change what is at the root of so much illness among people who are poor – unequal access to good education, employment, housing and food.”