Reviewed by: Society for Medical Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Inequality
Secondary Theme: Health
Most public health researchers, health professionals, and medical anthropologists would likely agree that, “Everyone deserves to live the healthiest life possible” (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 2016). Contemporary public discourse in the U.S., however, makes it eminently clear that Americans do not unanimously support this claim. This roundtable will share preliminary findings and critical reflections on an interdisciplinary, collaborative, mixed-methods study designed to investigate how Americans think about fairness, deservingness, health, and flourishing: the AmeRicans’ Conceptions of Health Equity Study (ARCHES; arches.chip.uconn.edu). ARCHES is a two-phase study led by anthropologists, with ongoing input from an Advisory Board reflecting a wide range of experience and expertise. The study’s first, qualitative phase was developed in conversation and partnership with a county-wide health equity initiative in Greater Cleveland, Ohio – Health Improvement Partnership-Cuyahoga (HIP-Cuyahoga; hipcuyahoga.org) – involving over 100 agencies in the health, government, nonprofit, and academic sectors and more than 600 individuals, including policymakers, public health professionals, clinicians, grassroots leaders, and community residents. A core aim of HIP-Cuyahoga is to heighten participants’ awareness of structural racism and its health effects – and one goal of ARCHES is to explore the impact of HIP-Cuyahoga participation on participants’ views and values in relation to these topics. Phase I, led by medical anthropologists, includes (a) ongoing ethnographic participant-observation in HIP-Cuyahoga activities (committee meetings, strategy sessions, public events, and informal gatherings) as well as (b) semi-structured interviews with a diverse range of Greater Cleveland residents (n=140, half involved with HIP-Cuyahoga and half uninvolved). Phase II, led by a political scientist, will test qualitative Phase I findings in a national survey. This AAA roundtable will (1) briefly tell the “origin story” of this unusual project; (2) share Phase I research highlights; and – above all – (3) provide an opportunity for frank discussion of the risks, challenges, and opportunities involved in studying issues of fairness, deservingness, health, and flourishing in the contemporary United States. Panelists include anthropologists involved with the ARCHES project (as key study personnel and research consultants); non-anthropologists who serve on the study’s Advisory Board (including a legal scholar with public health expertise and a community activist who will speak to the lived impact of structural racism on health and the capacity to flourish); and a distinguished medical anthropologist serving as discussant.