Family physician Dr. Karen Smith has been helping patients register to vote while administering COVID-19 tests at her clinic in Raeford, a rural town in Hoke County, North Carolina. Smith’s voter registration efforts stretch back to the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Though COVID-19 testing and treatment has strained community health centers across the nation, Smith has maintained a steadfast commitment to civic health over the past few months. Smith said she believes voting is important because she sees a direct connection between government action and community health.
Our healthcare workers have been referred to as the frontline; they are also often the last defense. Too often, they’re seeing patients when it has reached the worst case scenario of diabetic coma after months of rationing insulin, or being put on dialysis because they couldn’t afford medication in the earlier stages of kidney failure.
It takes physicians and allied health professions advocating for their patients’ health beyond what can be done in a medical context. It will take giving everyone a voice in our democracy and getting people registered to vote, but it will not stop there. It takes mutual aid, organizing, advocacy, protesting, donating.
In the wake of the 19th Amendment, birth control was made more accessible and affordable, and state Medicaid programs were mandated to include services and supplies for family planning.
Through all of these changes, an important commonality exists: 26 million women were granted the right to vote, and many of them acted on it. Many of them continued to be activists for the issues that mattered to them, including but in no way limited to their health and the health of their children. Their voices were heard in every corner of America, taken seriously by legislators in Congress, and backed at the ballot box at last.
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.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, and don’t we all wish there was a magical voting fruit we could eat to avoid a trip to the DMV? I mean, imagine a world where eating an orange boosted your Vitamin D levels and autofilled your voter registration application. Peak multitasking if you ask me, but here we are, stuck in a world with plain old oranges, some extra Vitamin D, and a blank application.