Voting is a Public Health Issue
October 1, 2022
Voting is a public health issue, and at Maine Public Health Association, we remain committed to ensuring voting is accessible, secure, and equitable for all eligible voters in Maine.
In 1988, the Institute of Medicine published a landmark report, The Future of Public Health, which acknowledges that voting is a public health issue because it helps shape “the conditions in which people can be healthy.” The American Public Health Association considers voting to be a public health issue because it impacts civic policies ranging from budgets to carrying firearms to insurance and LGBTQ rights.
According to Dr. Edward Ehlinger, past-president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), voting directly impacts health: “Research conducted in 44 countries showed that civic participation, specifically voter participation, was associated with better self-reported health—while another study showed that those who did not vote reported poorer health outcomes. Historically, we can see this trend play out via suffrage and voting rights. While other factors were of course at play, it was after women got the right to vote in 1920 that the maternal and infant mortality rates dropped dramatically. This can be attributed to the passage of the Sheppard Towner Act of 1921, which set up maternal and child health units in every state health department, expanded collection of birth and death data, and began federal funding of state health programs. Similarly, when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed, infant mortality rates dropped and the Black/white disparity in those rates narrowed, again because of legislation that was passed in response to new voter enfranchisement.”
We believe ensuring that all eligible voters can cast their ballots fairly and equitably is a public health priority, given its strong association with health equity and health outcomes, and ensures election integrity.
Be a Public Health Voter!
Voting strengthens democracy and enhances health by giving people a role in the policy processes that affect determinants of their health, as noted by the National Library of Medicine.
As public health professionals, we must make sure we are registered to vote and vote early and often at all levels of democracy – local, state and nationally. We must also ensure candidates and policymakers understand public health and put good public health policy at the forefront of their agendas. Be a public health voter! Register to vote and ask candidates questions about public health.
Are you an MPHA member? We have prepared a list of candidate questions for town hall forums – please be in touch if you can’t find them in your member profile!
Learn More & Take Action
On Wednesday, September 28, 2022, MPHA hosted a webinar about Healthy Democracy Healthy People. The presentation recording is now posted on Maine Public Health Association’s YouTube page, and here are links to the presentation slide deck, Health & Democracy Index and Healthy Voting Guides. Healthy Democracy Healthy People also offers a partner toolkit for those interested in sharing the guides with their networks.