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Vot-ER: Physician ballots can improve the health of the body politic

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Organization aims to build awareness of the importance of voting among doctors, other health care workers and patients.

voting booths vote election: © vesperstock - stock.adobe.com

© vesperstock - stock.adobe.com

With the 2024 presidential election on the horizon, an advocacy organization wants physicians and other clinicians to make their voice heard through the ballot box.

Physician Alister Martin, MD, MPP, started Vot-ER as a pilot program to help patients vote. The nonpartisan group has expanded Vot-ER programs into more than 500 hospitals and clinics spreading the belief that voting can improve the health of patients, communities, and the nation’s body politic.

Health care remains among the top issues in Congress, with numerous pending bills affecting the practice and finances of medicine and research. Expect the public discourse to continue as President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump gear up for a rematch in the November election.

© Vot-ER.jpeg

Aliya Bhatia
© Vot-ER

Vot-ER Executive Director Aliya Bhatia discussed the organization and how physicians and other clinicians can change society by casting ballots.

Medical Economics: What is the connection between voting and public health?

Aliya Bhatia: The connection between voting and public health is deeply rooted and multifaceted. Public health outcomes are not solely determined by medical interventions but also by broader social, economic, and environmental factors. These determinants, known as social determinants of health, include access to education, employment opportunities, affordable housing, environmental protections, and more. Voting serves as a critical mechanism for individuals to influence policies related to people’s health. By participating in elections, voters can elect leaders who prioritize public health initiatives, advocate for equitable health care access, and address systemic issues affecting community well-being. Research consistently demonstrates that communities with higher voter turnout experience better health outcomes, highlighting the importance of civic engagement in promoting public health.

Furthermore, integrating voter registration and civic engagement initiatives into health care settings presents a unique opportunity to address disparities in voting access and promote health equity. Health care organizations, as trusted community touchpoints, can play a pivotal role in empowering individuals to register to vote and participate in elections. By recognizing the connection between voting and public health and actively promoting civic engagement, we can strive towards a society where everyone has the opportunity to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives, regardless of their social or economic circumstances.

Medical Economics: How are health and medical organizations working to increase voting this year?

Aliya Bhatia: As the executive director of Vot-ER, we are seeing impressive growth in how health and medical organizations are prioritizing voter engagement this year. Across the country, we're witnessing a remarkable surge in efforts to increase voting access and participation within health care settings. Health and medical organizations are leveraging their unique position as trusted community touchpoints to empower individuals to register to vote and make their voices heard at the ballot box.

One significant initiative we're seeing is the integration of voter registration drives and civic engagement activities into routine health care services. From hospitals and clinics to medical schools and community health centers, these institutions are implementing strategies to ensure that patients and health care professionals alike have the resources and support they need to participate in elections. Whether it's through providing voter registration materials in waiting rooms, alongside discharge paperwork, or health care providers asking patients if they are registered to vote and using our Vot-ER Badge backers to register them in office in real time, health and medical organizations are playing a pivotal role in expanding access to the democratic process.

At Vot-ER, we're proud to collaborate with health and medical organizations nationwide to advance our shared goal of increasing voter participation. Through innovative programs like our Civic Health Fellowship, Healthy Democracy Campaign, Emergency Patient Voting, Civic Health Month and Community Civic Engagement Program, we're equipping health care professionals and institutions with the tools and resources they need to promote voter registration and civic engagement effectively.

Thanks to the tens of thousands of volunteers across the nation, medical organizations are taking proactive steps to increase voting this year by integrating voter registration efforts into health care services, fostering collaborations with community partners, and implementing innovative initiatives to empower individuals to exercise their right to vote. By prioritizing voter engagement, these organizations are not only advancing public health but also strengthening our democracy for generations to come.

Medical Economics: How does voting benefit the health of individuals and communities?

Aliya Bhatia: I'm passionate about highlighting the myriad ways in which voting directly benefits the health of individuals and communities. Firstly, voting empowers individuals to advocate for policies that directly impact their health and well-being. By participating in elections, individuals have the opportunity to elect representatives who prioritize public health initiatives, such as expanding access to health care, promoting mental health resources, and addressing social determinants of health like affordable housing and clean air.

Moreover, research consistently shows that communities with higher voter turnout tend to experience better health outcomes. When more people engage in the democratic process, policymakers are held accountable to address public health concerns and implement effective solutions. This leads to healthier communities with improved access to health care services, reduced health disparities, and increased overall well-being.

Furthermore, voting fosters a sense of community engagement and empowerment, which has positive ripple effects on public health. When individuals feel invested in the decision-making process and believe that their voices matter, they are more likely to actively participate in community initiatives, volunteer work, and advocacy efforts. This collective action strengthens social cohesion, builds resilience against health crises, and promotes a culture of collaboration and support within communities.

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© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health