August is Civic Health Month, a time when we highlight the importance of engaged voters to shape the health of their communities - the places where they live, work, learn and play.
What does civic health mean?
Civic health emphasizes the importance of a community harnessing their voting power to address issues that impact the health of its people.
There are three dimensions that measure civic health - the civic, social, and political strength of a community. These variables are interwoven and overlapping through volunteerism, charitable giving, collective action, confidence in institutions, access to the use of information, trust and interactions in the family to groups, voter registration and turnout, expression of political opinion and decision-making.
While there are a variety of metrics used to assess civic health, two that are especially relevant in the healthcare setting are voter registration and electoral participation rates.
How do voter registration and electoral participation impact health?
Oftentimes it can be difficult to see the direct effects of voting on quality of life, but the collective power of voting will adopt or reject policies that impact individual and community health, meaning that the policies passed or snubbed will shape who is more likely to vote and continue to do so across their life span.
Lower voter turnout is most commonly experienced by citizens who are in poor health, are diagnosed with chronic diseases, or have mental or physical disabilities. We also know that voter turnout is worse for individuals with lower levels of education and/or income and varies greatly by race and ethnicity - people of color have historically had lower voter turnout.
So, all of these factors in mind – can we expect policies to be passed that will improve the health of low-income, minority, disabled, or other under-represented communities if they are unable to make it to the ballot?
What can we do to improve civic health?
Fortunately, many organizations currently work to flip the switch on these numbers and improve voter turnout for all communities.
Vot+ER is a nonprofit organization that works to integrate civic engagement into healthcare by providing healthcare professionals the resources, tools, and training to talk with their patients and colleagues. If you're a healthcare professional, learn more about how you can engage your patients through Vot+ER.
Our democracy allows us, the voters, to have a voice and a CHOICE in public policy decisions and law-making.
Communities with strong indicators of civic health have higher employment rates, better school systems, improved physical and mental health, and more responsive governments. So, vote like your health depends on it!
The United States election day is on Tuesday, November 8, 2022. Have you registered to vote in your state? Click here to get started!