A Meta-Narrative Literature Synthesis and Framework to Guide Future Evaluation of Legal Empowerment Interventions
By Katherine Footer, Michael Windle, Laura Ferguson, Jordan Hatcher, Carrie Lyons, Emma Gorin, Anne L. Stangl, Steven Golub, Sofia Gruskin, Stefan Baral
Health and Human Rights, 20
Legal empowerment is increasingly recognized as a key approach for addressing socio-structural determinants of health and promoting the well-being and human rights of vulnerable populations. Legal empowerment seeks to increase people’s capacity to understand and use the law. However, limited consensus remains on the effectiveness of legal empowerment interventions in optimizing health outcomes. Leveraging a meta-narrative approach, we synthesized literature describing how legal empowerment interventions have been operationalized and empirically studied with respect to health determinants. The studies included here document diverse legal empowerment approaches and highlight how interventions changed the context surrounding the health of vulnerable populations. The absence of robust conceptualization, operationalization, and measurement of the risk contexts in which legal empowerment approaches operate limits the clarity with which interventions’ impact on health can be ascertained. Despite this, legal empowerment is a promising approach to address the health of marginalized populations. To foster support between the fields of legal empowerment and health, we explore the limitations in study design and measurement of the existing evidence base; such scrutiny could strengthen the rigor of future research. This paper provides a guide to the socio-structural levels across which legal empowerment interventions impact health outcomes in order to inform future interventions.