About the SMA Policy Process

The SMA Policy Committee is an initiative sponsored by the SMA Board aimed at addressing issues having national and international health importance. A participatory process enables SMA members to critically access and dialogue with each other about focal issues following their reading of a set of background materials. Each year the SMA Board will select issues for deliberation. During the year, a committee will be formed to raise member’s awareness about these issues through the provision of background readings and illustrative case studies. A comment board enables members to express opinions and exchange ideas. At the end of the year, an invited session will be organized at the AAA (or SMA meetings) and a policy paper will be written by members of the task force explaining the role(s) that anthropologists can play in addressing the focal issues.

The Policy Committee invites SMA members to comment on issue briefs as they are developed. Issue briefs and related documents are posted for three weeks to ensure community participation in their development. Your views are important not only in terms of polishing our issue brief statements but also for alerting us to contrary or other points of view on the policy issues under discussion.

What did the original “take a stand” process entail?

The process was to be spearheaded by a task force comprised of interested SIG members. Their brief was threefold:

  1. To introduce a “take a stand” statement (brief) that presents a topic of vital concern to the group as a whole toward the end of initiating informed dialogue about the issue and the role medical anthropologists can play in addressing it. The brief was not to be presented as a consensus statement for the group to approve, but a topic for our community to deliberate for the period of 1–2 years. After deliberation, a consensus statement, when relevant, could be drafted and voted upon—but this was not the primary intent of the initiative.
  2. To provide reference material to SIG members enabling them to engage in informed, productive, critical, and balanced dialogue. The brief and reference material were to be posted on the SMA website
  3. To sponsor a forum that will educate the anthropology community and bring anthropologists to venues where they can discuss their views with allied disciplines, advocates, policy makers and the media. In the anthropology community, the SIG was to sponsor a listserve on the website and a forum at the AAA and/or SFAA/SMA meetings.

Historical note

The original Take a Stand Initiative process was field tested by an ad hoc committee of the SMA that examined the political economy and ethical issues related to clinical trials and anthropology’s role in monitoring clinical trials and developing more ethical ways of conducting them. The original plan was to turn the Take a Stand Initiative over to SIG once the process was tested. This never happened as envisioned. SIG were rather asked to write policy statements that have sometimes been consensus statements and at other times vision statements, etc.

Click to view archived statements and documents.

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