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Participating in Local Elections for Better Healthcare Outcomes

Coming Together to Benefit Community Healthcare

By andrewdeen14Published 2 months ago 4 min read
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Participating in Local Elections for Better Healthcare Outcomes
Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

In some parts of the country, voter turnout in local elections comes in at less than 10%. Community politics don’t get even a small fraction of the coverage that is devoted to national or state-wide races which may contribute to low turnout.

Regardless, poor voter participation in community elections is incredibly counterintuitive. Ultimately, your state representatives will have a much bigger influence on your day-to-day life than the president ever will.

This extends even to major social issues like healthcare. In this article, we take a look at how participating in local elections can lead to better healthcare outcomes.

Challenges

The American healthcare system is riddled with challenges and complications. Millions of Americans lack healthcare coverage. Even those who have it often find that even basic treatments are cripplingly expensive.

Hospitals are underfunded and short on staff. There is a prominent racial disparity in healthcare outcomes that continues to impact minority patients.

It may not always feel like these issues are on the ballot. In a way, they are. Local politicians make important funding decisions. They regulate local healthcare laws. They may decide on insurance or aid provisions for low-income families.

They will certainly influence the overall political trajectory of your state. Political momentum can shift considerably over the course of an election. If one local politician gets elected on a certain agenda, it will change the way politicians of the future campaign in your state. Think about how much both major political parties have changed in the last decade.

Candidates like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump would have once been political radicals. Now, their positions are mainstream and highly influential all throughout the country.

Every vote in a democracy helps shape the overall political conversation.

Voting is Good for Your Health?

A study produced by Carnegie Mellon University indicated that participating in local elections produces a lower risk of high blood pressure and mental deterioration. The study focused less on the physical act of casting a ballot— which of course takes only seconds— but the more robust process of being involved in an election.

Involvement could involve many different types of activities and behaviors, all of which translate into their own mental and physical benefits. Why lower blood pressure in particular? Cardiovascular issues are influenced at least in part by stress.

When your body is producing a lot of cortisol— one of the chemicals responsible for feelings of anxiety—it often results in higher blood pressure and an elevated heart rate. It’s hard to imagine that engaging in politics—which are never known for being relaxing—could soothe this response. Here’s why it can:

• Political engagement stimulates your mind: To be truly engaged with the political process, you need to stay informed. This could involve reading the news, listening to radio broadcasts, or watching reports on TV. While you are learning about what is happening in the world, your brain is working over time. Mental stimulation produces serotonin—the chemical responsible for relaxation or feelings of peace.

• Political engagement creates a sense of purpose: People are generally more healthy when they feel like they are doing something important with their time. They experience less stress, less depression, less anxiety. They engage more actively with the world and may even feel excited about each new day. There are many ways to achieve that sense of purpose, but political engagement is a particularly potent one. When you participate in a local election, you are actively making choices for the betterment of your community. What could be more purposeful than that?

• It gets you in front of people: Whether you are participating in a campaign or volunteering at the polls, your political engagement will almost certainly require you to interact regularly with other people. Interacting regularly with others reduces stress levels and improves your overall sense of wellness.

There are also peripheral health benefits. For example, if you are campaigning for a local politician, you may spend more time being physically active. Handing out flyers or going door to door requires motion.

It’s interesting to note that these benefits are particularly pronounced in older adults—particularly those in retirement. Retirees need to work extra hard to remain stimulated. For most of their life, they have had a clear sense of purpose.

Without consistent daily responsibilities, that sense of purpose can be harder to come by. Political advocacy is a great way to stay social, active, and passionate— all factors that can positively influence your long-term health.

Are any of these benefits life-saving? Probably not. If the only vegetable you eat is lettuce on a cheeseburger, you’ll still have problems. However, civic engagement can be one important aspect of a lifestyle designed to produce better health and wellness.

Conclusion

Many people only become politically engaged when there is a big buzzworthy issue on the ballot. The truth? Even when the political cause you care the most about isn’t being actively discussed, it is still at risk.

Those splashy front-page issues make up only a small fraction of what a politician does each day. If you are passionate about healthcare reform— or any other issue— it’s important to learn more about what your local players say about your cause.

Health and human rights are always on the ballot. Stay informed, and be engaged. It’s also good to remember that you don’t have to be passionate about a particular issue to get involved. Maybe you care more about voter rights as a concept in and of itself. There are plenty of ways to stay active while advocating for electoral integrity—the guarantee that voting is accessible, fair, and inclusive.

Everyone cares about something. Figure out what issues you find moving, and find a way to actively support them.

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