Q: I am a mother of two, and grandmother of 6 and I recently read that New Mexico is ranked near the bottom of all 50 states for many childhood health care indicators. What I can I do to help?
A: Vote like your child’s future depends on it!
Depending on one’s view of the world, this missive is either somewhat true or completely true. Either way, it’s true.
Policies affecting our environment, educational system, personal safety, ability to get jobs and ability to advocate for our rights and freedoms all affect our children’s futures. These policies impact children’s access to health care, the availability of well-educated pediatric trained providers, and the ability to afford medications and treatments that may be required.
All this falls under the concept of health equity. Children are dependent on their caregivers to access health care, and any situation which impedes the caregiver from doing so has a negative impact on children’s health.
School-based health centers try to address this need. But even that resource is limited during these strange times of limited school attendance and staffing. Populations with restricted resources have children with higher rates of obesity, asthma and diabetes, among other things.
Examples of restricted resources include joblessness or very low salary, homelessness or housing insecurity, food insecurity, availability of child care givers, ability to take time off of work, ability to buy medications, and finally, the ability to navigate our complex and confusing health care system.
Through no fault of their own, these children suffer a health care disadvantage from a very early age, which can impact their growth, development and ability to grow into healthy, independent adults. Any policies that affect access to health care (enough hospital beds and doctors), public health resources (such as SARS-CoV-2 testing), education (understanding why testing and quarantining are important), housing (crowding increases virus transmission), and nutrition will impact the health of children.
Policies that acknowledge health inequity, and look for ways to improve access to quality health care, will positively impact child health.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is advocating for parents and caregivers to actively participate in the voting process through a campaign called “Get Out the Vote.” The AAP is a nonpartisan organization which believes that children should have optimal health and well-being and be valued by society.
Its mission is to attain optimal physical, mental, and social health and well-being for all infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. They work at many levels to achieve this goal.
At the provider level, AAP provides excellent educational materials to maintain a high level of knowledge, and opportunities for ongoing learning throughout a provider’s career.
At the policy level, AAP has an office in Washington, D.C., and regularly goes to Capitol Hill to meet with policy makers and explain the unique health care needs of children.
It also advocates for parents, by encouraging parents to “Get Out the Vote.” By asking parents to vote, it is asking them to take the time to learn what the different candidates stand for, and to think about what policies will most likely create an environment where children have consistent access to high quality health care.
Voting is one of the main ways parents and grandparents can change the underlying drivers of health inequities, to change public policy, and to achieve improved health status for all children.
While it is true that each child lives in a world created by their parents, it is also true that they – like us adults – are interdependent. The health of one child will affect the health of another.
This is why health inequity and the impact it has on resource-poor families is a concern for all families, even if your zip codes are miles apart. The fate of all children is intertwined in this way. All children deserve a chance to thrive and to grow into healthy, productive adults. And a collective will to provide those opportunities to all children is a good way to invest in our collective future.
Here are ways you can ‘Get Out the Vote:”
• Make sure you are registered to vote and know how to vote (vote.org).
• Encourage others to register to vote and help them get it done.
• Share messages on social media about why you plan to vote on policies that may impact child health.