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Have You Checked on Your Civic Health Lately?

You see your primary care doctor every year, try to eat healthy each meal (okay fine, most meals), and get a half hour of exercise each day. Those fitness tracker stats are looking great.

Physical health…check.

Maybe you do some morning meditation, talk to your therapist weekly, or take an hour a day to just focus on you. A little self care goes a long way.

Mental health…check.

But have you registered to vote? Do you trust the public institutions in your community? Have you volunteered to help your neighbors recently?

Civic health…wait what?

Yes, that’s right. Your civic health. It’s just as important as your physical and mental health, but chances are no one ever told you that. Don’t worry though — that’s what Civic Health Month is here for. Our nationwide coalition of partnering organizations, hospitals, and healthcare providers is committed to making sure you’re checking on your civic health moving forward.

Curious to learn more? Let’s get started.

Your civic health describes how well you and your community are able to participate in activities that require you to come together, solve problems, and make decisions that affect everyone. Almost anything you can think of that is considered a public issue and needs collective input or action is related to how healthy you and your community are civically.

Ready for some examples? If they were scored, any of the following scenarios would create a positive effect on your civic health, represented as a +1:

You vote in every election for the candidates and issues you care about: +1.

You’ve been to a neighborhood meeting before, such as a Town Hall: +1.

A snowstorm last winter left huge potholes in the streets that still haven’t been fixed. You call your government representatives to get them involved: +1.

You’re angry that your child’s school is underfunded. A group of parents has created a petition to send to the School Board, so you read it and sign it: +1.

Your city’s Department of Housing and Urban Development is an institution you can trust to address you and your neighbors’ concerns about lead paint in your apartment building: +1.

Almost every eligible person in your district is registered to vote because your community is committed to holding frequent voter registration events: +1.

Hopefully you’re getting the hang of it now. Civic health is vital to your own well-being and the well-being of your entire community. As members of a democracy, we are empowered to use the tools available to us — like voting, signing petitions, talking to our representatives, and taking action together — as we fight for what we believe can be better. The same way you look after your physical and mental health, you should be taking care of your civic health to make sure you are in the best position you can to do this.

Now that you know, take a second to think about the way that you engage in your community and how this affects your civic health. I’ll bet you have lots of +1’s on your list. But I doubt any of us has perfect civic health just yet, so it’s okay if you came up with some -1’s too. We’ve all got some work to do together, and today’s a great day to begin.