How Legal Problems Affect Health and the Role of Medical Legal Partnership in Canada

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
At the moment, there is little research involving the connection between legal issues and an individual’s overall health. It makes sense that non-individual factors go into determining one’s health, such as physical environment, housing, and education. These factors are typically referred to as the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) (Mikkonen and Raphael 2012). However, at times, individuals experience issues that are legal in nature, which can in many ways affect one’s health. It is this recognition that has sparked the creation of medical-legal partnerships throughout the United States, and more recently in Canada. The health benefits of medical-legal partnerships are well documented in the United States and have created a network of medical-legal organizations, in addition to new practices in both legal and medical education (Theiss 2017; Tobin-Tyler 2011). This research explores the establishment of one of Canada’s first Medical-Legal Partnerships (MLP) between The University of Calgary’s Student Legal Assistance (SLA) and Calgary’s downtown community health center (CUPS). This research explores how legal supports included alongside healthcare service provision can work to address structural inequalities that exist in our social environment and are created or exacerbated by one’s “legal wellbeing". Interviews with healthcare and social service providers working alongside the CUPS and SLA MLP provides novel insight into the various ways legal issues can disrupt access to healthcare, interrupt health-seeking behaviours, or create unique health crises all on their own. The idea behind this is to prove that legal wellbeing is a distinct social determinant of health. The following research aims to establish a foundation for the further development of Medical-Legal Partnership throughout Canada and challenges readers to ask, what does access to justice really look like?
Health, Law, Health Justice, Medical Legal Partnership, Social Determinants of Health, Interdisciplinary, Low-income, Legal Assistance, Health Disparity, Health Equity
van Olm, A. (2021). How legal problems affect health and the role of medical legal partnership in Canada (Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from