: Advocacy-Health Alliances: Better health through legal advocacy

Advocacy-Health Alliances: Better health through legal advocacy

Peter Noble

While Advocacy-Health Alliances or Medical-Legal Partnerships (‘MLPs’) are still in their infancy in Australia (with some notable exceptions), they are best exemplified in the relatively long-standing medical legal partnership movement in the US.

These partnerships have not only broken down the barriers to allow people experiencing health issues to access legal services; they have demonstrated the socio-legal impacts on health and the associated health benefits of effective legal advocacy on behalf of patients.

Advocacy-Health Alliances is a working title given by some legal practitioners in Australia to MLPs. Advocacy-Health Alliances is preferred by some because it better communicates that health and advocacy services both include but extend beyond the more narrowly defined medical and legal frameworks and professions.

While MLPs vary widely, all engage in three core activities: providing legal assistance in the healthcare setting, transforming health and legal institutions and practices and influencing policy change. There is significant scope in Australia to expand both practice and research in the MLP approach.

In 2011 the Clayton Utz Foundation granted a fellowship to research MLP and explore the potential of applying the MLP approach in Australia.

The resulting project has not been an academic exercise. Instead, the objective was to undertake the research in a manner that would simultaneously inform and energise the Australian public interest law sector (and related stakeholders) in the theory and practice of MLP, building momentum to expand it as key framework for the delivery of poverty law services and public health initiatives.

Pending the release of the final research report later in 2012, the interim recommendations include:

  1. advocating for the establishment of pilot sites that consciously and critically apply the MLP approach in the Australian context;
  2. considering the establishment of a national ‘centre’ to support the evolution of MLP in Australia;
  3. hosting a symposium in Australia to stimulate and inform understanding of the MLP concept; and
  4. identifying critical specialist/academic partners who will guide the development of appropriate monitoring and evaluation processes for MLP in Australia.

To read more about Advocacy-Health Alliances and Medical-Legal Partnership visit www.advocacyhealth.net.au or contact Peter Noble at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

PETER NOBLE is Coordinator and Lawyer at the Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre, and the 2011 Clayton Utz Foundation Fellow.

(2012) 37(3) AltLJ 204
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