What They’re Watching: Nikole Nelson, Alaska Legal Services Corporation

Nikole Nelson is the Executive Director of the Alaska Legal Services Corporation, which offers free civil legal services to low-income Alaskans. She joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss building partnerships to address the social determinants of health. These remarks were recorded before the COVID-19 outbreak during our October conference in Anchorage.



“Right now, I’m really interested in how our community is going to come together to address social determinants of health. We know from the health care providers that really 60% of their patients’ health are really related to the social determinants of health. And so, if we’re going to get on top of those issues we really need to be coming up with solutions that address those as well.

We’ve been building a network of medical-legal partnerships within the tribally-operated healthcare system. And in conjunction with our partners at the tribal healthcare system, we have been embedding legal aid lawyers from Alaska Legal Services into the healthcare system to address the health-harming legal needs of patients. And that ranges from things like domestic violence, or homelessness, or housing, or helping people access the public benefits that they’ve earned like, for instance, veterans benefits or social security disability benefits.

There’s a want to address those issues right now. I think there’s a recognition that health of our communities and the folks in our communities is not going to improve dramatically unless we get a handle on those things. So, there are lots of conversations happening about how we can better integrate and work together to make sure that those needs are met as well.”