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Voting linked to better health, physicians' group says

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Wednesday, January 10, 2024   

Voting is not only good for democracy, it is also good for your health, according to one of the nation's largest medical associations.

The American College of Physicians said voting empowers people to engage with their community, while ballot initiatives and elected officials determine how well the health care system works.

Dr. Omar Atiq, president of the American College of Physicians, said voters ultimately determine peoples' access to health care services and physicians' ability to treat them.

"If there is more voter participation, there will be better health care policies and therefore, better health care," Atiq asserted.

Atiq pointed out research shows states with fewer barriers to voting have better health outcomes than states with restrictive voting laws or gerrymandered maps. A 2022 study by the Election Law Journal reports Idaho, along with states like Texas and Florida, have the nation's highest concentrations of restrictive voting policies.

Despite high health care and drug costs, the United States has among the lowest life expectancy rates in the developed world. The American College of Physicians is encouraging all health care professionals and medical students to engage patients in nonpartisan, health care-related conversations about voting, as a way to increase health equity.

Atiq suggested posting voter registration information in patient waiting rooms is a good place to start.

"We are looking at talking to patients about the importance of their voice in making sure that the national resources are allocated, to where we have optimal health for everyone," Atiq emphasized.

Studies show uninsured people are more likely to support public health insurance programs, but are less likely to vote than people with health insurance. Atiq believes physicians have a responsibility to help their patients when they need it, and talking about voting on issues to improve health care is part of the process.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.


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