So what would happen if health providers partnered with legal services to provide a model of wrap-around care that addressed both the disease and the determinants?
Dr Bismark explains:
These services usually have three main components:
1) Legal advice and assistance:Patients can attend a clinic based within the hospital or health service where they receive free legal advice – hopefully before problems spiral out of control. A simple assessment tool likeI-HELP can be used to identify those who might benefit (Income, Housing, Education/Employment, Legal status, Personal safety)
2) Improving healthcare systems: Health practitioners can receive training and support to identify vulnerable patients and understand ways in which the law may be able to help. Electronic health records can prompt providers to ask about issues such as domestic violence, and practitioners can become more skilled at informing patients of their rights and entitlements to services and supports. A secondary consultation service can allow health practitioners and social workers to seek advice on questions that have a legal aspect.
3) Change outside the system: Finally, patients, health practitioners, and lawyers can form a powerful alliance in addressing broader systems issues. For example, exposure of asthmatic patients to second-hand smoke is not an issue that can be solved with a one hour clinic appointment, but health justice partnerships can lend their weight to advocating for stronger smoking bans in their community.