In the latest issue of Medical Anthropology Quarterly, SMA President Carolyn Sargent calls on the anthropological community to engage with the national health care crisis and “shape public discourses and policy in ways we have rarely done before.”
Sargent laments that, with a few exceptions, anthropologists have “not offered a coherent and emphatic voice in the debate about transforming the U.S. health care system, especially the core issue of universal health insurance.”
Frustrated by a lack of public awareness for the pervasiveness of the problem and inspired by her own fieldwork in Texas (the state with the highest rate of uninsured), Sargent calls on her colleagues to document the impact of illness on individuals and families, especially by recording narratives of the employed middle class, as “the public imagination has not absorbed the reality that three-quarters of the medically bankrupt had health insurance.”
Echoing these frustrations, Mark Nichter created “SMA Takes a Stand”, an initiative which prompts anthropologists to reach beyond scholarly research, and into national policy debates that have up until now been dominated by other fields like economics and sociology.
In order to energize “SMA Takes a Stand”, Sargent proposes to form a working group of SMA board representatives, special interest groups, and others whose research aims might align with the initiative.