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Rubinstein study on health literacy and life history published in Human Organization

Dec 8, 2017

Action Anthropology in a Free Clinic

Sandra D. Lane, Robert A. Rubinstein & Robert H. Keefe

Human Organization, January 2017

Robert A. Rubinstein

Robert A. Rubinstein

Sandra Lane

Sandra D. Lane


In this article, the authors describe a mixed methods study in a free clinic for uninsured, impoverished and medically vulnerable persons in Syracuse, New York. Our model, Community Action Research and Education, draws on Action Anthropology, as developed by Sol Tax, in which faculty, students, and community members work together to develop and conduct the research. 

The study includes a quantitative review of 600 patients’ charts and two rounds of qualitative patient interviews on health literacy and life history. The findings indicate that the patients had higher than expected education. For many, the consequences of mental illness and substance dependence led to job loss, incarceration, homelessness, and burning bridges with family members. 

This study provides information for policymakers in light of the present challenges to the Affordable Care Act. In addition, the study provided data for the clinic administrators to use in funding requests and fine-tuning their services. Students benefitted as well by learning anthropological research skills while working collaboratively with community members

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