July-August 2009 Issue • Volume 37 • Issue 6

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SWS Targets Healthcare Policy
as Action Issue

by Jessica Holden Sherwood, Executive Officer, Sociologists for Women in Society

When Joey Sprague ran for President-Elect of Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS) she shared a new vision for the organization, and after being elected in 2007, she worked to make that vision a reality. With its considerable resources, of both expertise and funding, the organization has been excellent for member networking and professional development. Sprague thought SWS could do better for women in society, by focusing on one target for concerted political action.

At the winter 2008 meeting in Las Vegas, SWS members voted to focus significant organizational resources, attention, and action on one issue for two years. What issue, you ask? We agreed on the principle first, and then discussed and voted on the issue. The winner: universal healthcare in the United States. This is indeed an urgent issue, as about one hundred million Americans are uninsured or underinsured. And it is timely, as health care reform is on the national agenda.

At the end of the two years, SWS members will have the opportunity to vote on whether to extend this focus, to repeat the program with a new issue, or neither.

A Wiki and a White Paper

SWS started with two projects: A paper competition and a wiki for sharing information. On the wiki—a group-edited website—SWS members both post and read about healthcare policy options and activism and are invited to make contributions from their own areas of expertise. Within a week of its launch, the wiki had more than 60 members join, and is up to 75 as of this writing. Once the wiki site is further developed, it is likely to be opened beyond SWS members. Sociologists interested in the wiki should contact Christine Morton at Stanford University or Cameron Macdonald at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

For the paper competition, SWS offered a $1,000 prize for the best "feminist white paper" on current knowledge about the health policy options open to the United States. The winning entry, by SWS member Liz Legerski of the University of Kansas, is posted on the wiki site.

Legerski’s paper reviews health programs in various U.S. states and other countries. It analyzes the pros and cons of President Obama’s "Plan for a Healthy America," ultimately finding it lacking. Legerski concludes: "If our goal is to achieve universal health insurance coverage in America, we must ask ourselves if we are willing to settle for anything short of a citizenship based, single-payer system." Although Obama’s plans for healthcare reform represent a substantial improvement over the status quo, evidence suggests that millions of Americans will still remain uninsured.

Thanks to the wiki, the paper competition, and sessions at the 2009 Winter Meeting, organized by current president Shirley Hill, SWS members are now engaged in self-education and dialogue about health policy. Our next step is to develop a political action plan and act! We hope to see you in San Francisco as this exciting new venture unfolds. For more information, see the SWS website at www.socwomen.org/ and apply for 2009 SWS membership (if you haven’t yet), then log-in to the Members’ Homepage. logo


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