Voting For Our Health
Staff perspective by Mai Le
For many people, voting is not top of mind when they think of public health interventions. But there is a body of growing research to suggest that civic engagement, which includes voting, volunteering, and joining community groups, is associated with better mental and physical health. These are community-oriented activities that improve individual health. To me what this data says is that what we do together matters. That is the very basis of public health: acting at the community level to improve the conditions of health for all. Voting strengthens our families, communities, and democracy.
Voting is a form of power. And like other types of power, it remains concentrated in certain areas and groups. In San Mateo County, we see lower voter turnout in areas with the highest health need (East Palo Alto, South San Francisco, and Daly City), and lower turnout in the Asian and Latinx population compared to whites. Youth (18-24) also have historically had low turnout rates across the state.
To our partners in health, I encourage you to promote voting in this midterm election, while also understanding that voter engagement is a year-round activity. How do we consistently support power building so that by election time, marginalized communities are ready and activated to go to the polls? In the recent workshop I attended on youth leadership for health equity, one big focus was on creating infrastructure. How can we systematically prepare every young person to use their voice and their vote for change? That is our challenge, and I am here to support and engage our partners in this work.
Three actions you can take this month:
- Share election information and reminders to vote.
- Read and distribute our Vote For Your Health flyer.
- Join our Youth Civic Empowerment Learning Community, a group for adults working with youth to promote community level health and equity.
I welcome your thoughts on this topic and am happy to discuss further. Please reach out to me, Mai Le at email@example.com.