This article describes the use of action research as an information base for policy formulation by a collaborative partnership in Spokane, Washington. Health and social service providers recognized access to care by uninsured persons as a major community issue. Little was known from the consumers' perspective about factors limiting access. No benchmarks existed against which to measure progress. Investigators collected mailed surveys from 475 residents of six Spokane neighborhoods and 97 persons participated in 12 focus group sessions. Income, education, and ethnicity were primary factors affecting perceptions of degree to which medical, dental, and mental health needs were being met. Many residents were unable to obtain needed health care; low-cost dental and mental health services were named as their highest priorities. Quality of care, relationships with providers, immediacy of access, and cost were important concerns. Major barriers were cost, length of time before one could get an appointment, lack of comfort with providers, and having to miss work for appointments. Consumer input is critical in understanding local issues in health care. Action research that combines qualitative and quantitative data enhanced practice/policy decisions through assuring ownership of the research and immediate use of findings by involved agencies.