“Takes A Stand” Policy Documents

Takes A Stand” (TAS) Initiatives: Policy Relevant Reviews and Policy Statements

SMA Statement of Solidarity with Striking Precarious Workers (2023)

The Society for Medical Anthropology stands in solidarity with student workers, postdoctoral scholars, and academic researchers everywhere in their struggles for equitable working, learning, and living conditions. As a Society, over half of our membership is constituted by precarious workers: student workers, postdoctoral scholars, academic researchers, and those with adjunct or lecturer appointments. Students alone make up 47% of our membership. We recognize the strength of our discipline relies on the ability of these scholars to succeed, and that universities must address structural and material inequities to support the health and wellbeing of their scholars and students.

SMA Statement on Labor Support 9 May 2023

SMA Statement on Supreme Court Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Decision (2022)

After a vote of the SMA Membership, we are pleased to report that the following statement regarding the recent United States Supreme Court ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson has passed as an official Policy Statement of the Society for Medical Anthropology, with the noted co-signatories below. If you have questions about the statement or are interested in your organization becoming a co-signatory, please contact us.

Co-signatories: Society for Cultural Anthropology, Society for Anthropological Sciences, American Ethnological Society, Association of Latino/a and Latinx Anthropologists

Statement on Supreme Court Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Decision

Mental Wellbeing in Anthropology and at Universities: A Call for System Transformation (2021)

The Anthropology of Mental Health Interest Group affirms that the state of mental health in the field of Anthropology needs serious attention and transformation. We respond to structural inequities in academia that exacerbate mental distress among graduate students and other anthropologists who experience oppression, by putting forward a policy statement with recommendations to create more equitable learning and working environments. Read the full statement here.

The Council on Anthropology and Reproduction (CAR) Opposes Legislation that Creates Barriers to Safe Abortion Care (2015)

The Advocacy Committee of the Council on Anthropology and Reproduction (CAR), a special interest group of the Society for Medical Anthropology, seeks to ensure that anthropologists have a voice in public conversations about reproductive and sexual rights and health. CAR is a U.S.-based organization whose members come from and work in a variety of countries and settings. Our membership holds that sexual and reproductive health are fundamental to human rights and the well-being of societies around the globe. Our global orientation makes us sensitive to and knowledgeable about women’s and men’s fundamental need for reproductive and sexual health services. Our collective expertise provides research-based commentary and critical perspectives on parenting, childbearing, infertility, obstetrics, midwifery, contraception, abortion, adoption, and reproductive technologies. In addition, CAR takes a special interest in women’s and men’s lived experiences of reproductive policies, both domestic and foreign. Many CAR members are also educators who oppose policies that deliberately provide incomplete, misleading, or inaccurate information about sexual health and reproductive options. We pledge to educate ourselves, educate others, and, most importantly, to act. On this occasion, CAR joins other activists and public health advocates in opposing recent legislation aimed at curtailing access to abortion in the United States.

Download the Policy Statement [CPDF: CAR Policy Statement on Abortion_MAQ]

SMA Policy Committee: Unauthorized Im/migration and Health

The aim of this “Take a Stand” initiative is to stimulate empirically grounded, critical dialogue about a burgeoning yet insufficiently addressed global health challenge: unauthorized (i.e., “undocumented” or “illegal”) migrants’ and immigrants’ need for – and generalized lack of access to – needed health care services both in the United States and elsewhere around the globe.

See the group’s Commentary in Medical Anthropology Quarterly or visit the blog AccessDenied: A Conversation on Immigration and Health for more recent work.

SMA Policy Committee: Clinical Drug Trials

An increasing proportion of clinical drug trials are conducted in developing countries where access to health care and government oversight of research are limited to nonexistent. Are vulnerable populations being exploited for benefits that accrue to people elsewhere? How do we protect against exploitation without unduly constraining much-needed health research that could, in fact, benefit vulnerable populations? What role should anthropologists play in the process of introducing and translating the purpose of clinical trials to local populations, insuring that they understand their rights, monitoring clinical trials in an environment subject to stakeholder and political economic interests, and serving as a watchdog? Read the detailed overview and background readings and resources here.

SMA Policy Committee: The Rights of Children

The UN General Assembly’s Convention on the Rights of the Child asks us to nurture and protect children. Ethics notwithstanding, doing so is essential to species survival. Yet, the USA has not voted for ratification of the Convention. And, in diverse cultural settings today, children (people under 18 years of age) are sometimes forced to bear arms in violent conflicts, sold as prostitutes, and used for child pornography. In short, children are, in countless ways, maltreated, exploited, deprived, abandoned, and neglected. Even institutions purporting to care for children, including orphanages, have sometimes instead been infernos of abuse and neglect.

Can we do anything to change the situation? Motivated by the goal of protecting children’s rights, in 1989 the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has since been ratified by 192 of 194 countries. This wide international support of the Convention reflects a world-wide commitment, unified across diverse cultural groups, to ensure children their human rights. Indeed, the Convention has been legally ratified by more member nations of the United Nations than any other UN human rights treaty. But one major signatory is missing.

The United States of America is one of only two countries (the other, Somalia) not to have ratified the Convention. Although the USA helped to shape the provisions of the Convention, and signed the Convention on February 16, 1995, the treaty has still not been submitted to the US Senate for a vote on ratification. This is no mere oversight, but a governmental reluctance to embrace an international rights treaty.

Click here for a more detailed overview and background readings.

SMA Policy Committee: The Global Gag Rule

Council on Anthropology and Reproduction (CAR) OPPOSES THE GLOBAL GAG RULE The Advocacy Committee of the Council on Anthropology and Reproduction (CAR), an interest group of the Society for Medical Anthropology, seeks to ensure that anthropologists have a voice in public conversations about reproductive and sexual rights and health. Our collective expertise provides research-based commentary and critical perspectives on parenting, childbearing, infertility, obstetrics, midwifery, contraception, abortion, adoption, and reproductive technologies. In addition, CAR takes a special interest in women’s and men’s lived experiences of policies, both domestic and foreign. On this occasion, CAR joins other activists and public health advocates in opposing the Global Gag Rule, a policy that has undermined reproductive health and security around the world.

Click here for a more detailed overview and background readings.

SMA Policy Committee: The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, An Urgent Call for U.S. Ratification

The commercial production and promotion of tobacco constitutes a global problem. Each year, approximately five million people die from tobacco-related diseases. Tobacco kills one-half of all lifetime users. In terms of its significance in international health, tobacco kills more people worldwide than malaria, maternal and major childhood conditions, and tuberculosis combined. By 2030, the annual number of deaths caused by tobacco is projected to rise to 10 million, with half of these deaths occurring among the 35 to 69 year old age group. As a consequence, smoking will cause one-third of all deaths globally in the next 20 years. The majority of these deaths will occur in low income countries.

Click here for more details and background readings.

SMA Policy Committee: What can critical medical anthropology contribute to global health: A health systems perspective

The flow of international aid from wealthier to poorer countries has increased dramatically over the last decade, and is attributable in part to the efforts of health activists, including medical anthropologists, who have rendered bare the realities of health disparities and human suffering. We are now facing an unprecedented moment in the history of global health, in which infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis are no longer peripheral concerns, but primary targets of bilateral aid programs, philanthropy, and research. Emergent health problems range from antibiotic resistance to tobacco use, SARS and Avian Flu, to the flow of health professionals from developing to developed countries. These demand global solutions, challenge the internal sovereignty of nation states, and involve new sets of actors, networks, partnerships and transnational health initiatives.

Click here for details and background readings.

SMA Policy Committee: Health Insurance Reform

The last two decades have witnessed fundamental changes in health insurance systems worldwide. In Latin America, pressure from global financial institutions has led to the introduction of managed care and the privatization of social security funds in Chile and Colombia (Abadía 2012). Similar pressures have led Eastern European nations to adopt private sector reforms to their formerly socialist health care systems (Ahlin 2012Mishtal 2012), while nations of western Europe are facing unprecedented challenges to their historic traditions of social insurance (Almeida 2012Castañeda 2012Larchanché 2012). Across the globe, notions of health as the “right” of the population –only enshrined in international conventions in the middle of the past century—have been challenged by the conversion of health into a privately-purchased commodity. These reforms entail a neoliberal transformation of the concept of governance itself, a resurgence of the role of the private sector in the public provision of health, and a re-conceptualization of the varying responsibilities of the individual, the corporation, and the state…

Click for the full statement. Click for details and background readings.

Take a Stand on Austerity: Brief from the Critical Anthropology of Global Health SIG

Responding to recent global financial crises and related austerity measures, the Critical Anthropology of Global Health (CAGH) Special Interest Group (SIG) of the Society for Medical Anthropology launched the Take a Stand (TAS) on Austerity initiative in 2013. Among the committee’s first steps has been drafting a brief statement and bibliography to help define the scope of the TAS on Austerity initiative and to brainstorm how anthropologists can get more involved. Drafts of the working statement and bibliography are currently available online for SMA members as well as other anthropologists to review and provide feedback. Questions or comments may also be directed to the committee chair Megan Carney, megcarney@gmail.com.

Download the brief: cagh-take-a-stand-on-austerity-2014