Why go to the DMV to register to vote when you can just ask your doctor?
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.
(Not to make it worse, but the apple thing is sadly also a myth.)
However, you can still get a nice 2-for-1 deal by asking your doctor this simple question:
“Hey Doc, can you help me get ready to vote?”
Now, you may be thinking I actually am comparing apples and oranges here. Hard to imagine a world where doctors and voting go hand in hand? Maybe at first, but it turns out that world is actually our world this time around. Don’t believe me? Ask the 18,000+ healthcare providers across the United States who are currently helping thousands of patients just like you register to vote or request their mail-in ballots for November 3rd.
Are providers really allowed to be doing that? They sure are. The very same law that lets you register to vote at the DMV — the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 — also lets you do it in the hospital setting, as long as it’s nonpartisan. In fact, over 130 hospitals are engaging in voter registration efforts right now because of this.
So, we’ve established that having your doctor to help you get ready to vote is an increasingly popular thing and also not breaking the law. But why would your doctor even care if you are registered to vote or have requested your absentee ballot? For several reasons.
The first is that up to 80% of your health outcomes are determined by factors outside the hospital walls. They’re called the social determinants of health, and many of them aren’t biological. Think of air pollution, difficulty accessing healthy food or clean water, housing instability, or poor working conditions. Your health is impacted by all of them, and many of them are controlled by the policies our elected officials make. Your doctors obviously care about these factors, and since policies are impacted by the voices of voters, by default making sure their patients can vote is something providers should and often do care about too.
Also, people who are civically engaged tend to have better self reported health. In fact, civic engagement is recognized as another social determinant of health, so tons of doctors have started to make sure their patients are getting a healthy dose of such activities, especially voting. In other words, providers are now looking out for your civic health (which 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) in addition to your physical and mental health. All that said, here’s an easy way to think about it:
- Health is more than biology.
- Civic engagement is one of the non-biological factors, and influences the other social determinants.
- Voting is civic engagement.
- More civic engagement means better civic health.
- Your doctors care about your civic health because it matters for your overall health.
- Doctors can help you improve your civic health by helping you get ready to vote.
Whenever you see your doctor, they ask you lots of things about your health, and you probably ask some questions of your own in return. Asking a healthcare provider if they can help you register to vote or request your mail-in ballot is literally asking them to help you look out for your health, which is most definitely within their job description.
So next time you find yourself at the doctor’s office, don’t hesitate to ask about it. A “Hey Doc, can you help me get ready to vote?” is all it takes.
If they can, you’ll have better civic health because you are empowered to impact the policies that shape the non-biological factors affecting your physical health. Not to mention one less trip to the DMV.
If they can’t, it’s an opportunity to teach your doctor something new by letting them know that thousands of their peers are already doing it. Chances are they will see what they’re missing out on and get involved. You’ll have better civic health in this case too because you are being proactive about increasing voter registration access in your community. Not only will future patients be very grateful for the DMV trip they avoided because of you, but more importantly they will be ready to vote, and you’ll all be healthier for it.
Come November 3rd, your daily apple might not pay off the way you wanted, but asking that one question most definitely will.