SMA "Takes A Stand" initiative-reminder/overview

Erica Prussing

Dear colleagues,
The SMA Board’s Policy Committee encourages you to consider how to make your knowledge relevant to policy--either as you participate in the AAA’s Raising Our Voices event series November 5-14, and/or as you continue with your work in varied practicing, clinical and academic settings.

While many SMA members are providing individual media appearances and these remain essential, we also encourage you to consider how the power of collective reviews and statements can impact the public understandings and conversations that shape health policymaking.  The SMA’s “Takes A Stand” initiative provides processes for members to collaborate on policy-related reviews and statements.

Anthropology’s knowledge base and humanistic approaches are especially relevant to policymaking processes that shape action (or promote inaction, as the case may be) in response to pandemics, climate change, austerity politics, unprecedented global levels of displacement/migration, and numerous other pressing topics.

Knowledge in anthropology can help, for example, to foreground harm reduction, health equity, social and political determinants of health, and rights to accessible health care in policy discussions about how best to protect and promote health, as well as insight into how information (including mis- and dis-information) circulates to shape the broader public understandings that often inform policymaking.  The COVID-19 pandemic has especially highlighted needs for greater public awareness of how anthropologically-informed understandings of these issues (and more) can inform disease control at all levels.

The SMA’s “Takes A Stand” (TAS) initiative currently features TWO OPTIONS for collective reviews and statements that demonstrate medical anthropology's relevance to policy: 

-The “Policy Statement” involves a shorter process and enables SMA members with existing expertise about a topic to create a policy statement for use by organizations, governments and elected officials.  This option may be most relevant for practicing anthropologists who work with organizations or government agencies that could benefit from accessible policy guidance, and/or anthropologists in other settings who want to enhance the public impacts of their work.  After review and vote by the SMA membership, a “PS” statement is posted on the SMA website.


2)     -The “Policy Relevant Review” involves a longer process of compiling research and resources to provide a broader overview of knowledge that others can then use to inform policymaking.  This option may best fit either anthropologists in any setting who already have a broad base of knowledge about a topic, or anthropologists who would like to further develop their knowledge.  Organizing an AAA conference panel can be an ideal launching point for developing a “PRR”—and for those working in settings where publications matter, this option can result in a collaboratively-authored, peer-reviewed article as well as a posting on the SMA website.

Please see for more information about both of these options. 


Previous SMA “TAS” statements/reviews are also available at  These address reproductive rights (abortion access and the global ‘gag rule’), undocumented immigration, clinical trials, the rights of children, tobacco control, austerity policies, and other topics.


New to thinking about policy-relevant medical anthropology?  The following Oxford Bibliography “Anthropology of Health Policy” entry by Mulligan and Brugnoli-Ensin provides an excellent overview and useful starting points:

All best wishes,
Erica (Policy Committee Chair)

Erica Prussing, PhD, MPH

Associate Professor, Departments of Anthropology and Community & Behavioral Health

University of Iowa


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