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Medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) secure the health-related needs of an affected patient-client by identifying upstream determinants of health for which the law provides a remedy. Some healthcare professionals have noted key activities of MLPs, including the provision of legal assistance, educating providers about social determinants of health, and advancing policy change by addressing existent laws and regulations that may impede the maintenance of good health.1 Although these efforts are essential, they do not fully capture the potential of MLPs to serve as a locus of research and intervention to strengthen the evidence base to advance individual and population health. Across the United States, there are at least 119 hospitals, 112 health centers, 30 health schools, 88 legal agencies, 37 law schools, and 66 pro bono partners that have developed MLPs to help children, the elderly, veterans, and individuals afflicted with chronic illnesses.2 To our knowledge, however, there has not been a systematic study of MLPs to identify the characteristics of those partnerships, and any trends that may facilitate the assessment of resources and unmet health needs of affected communities. In this study, we used information gleaned from a survey of MLPs in Illinois to further understand the similarities and differences among such partnerships. Specifically, we examined the unmet health needs and characteristics of communities served by 10 partnerships across the state, as well as the provision of services within those communities.


This document was created for the Illinois Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission on Medical-Legal Partnership. It is available at under the “Policy and Advocacy" section.