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.

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