The AAMC Center for Health Justice on Dec. 2 responded to a request for information from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion on the Healthy People 2030 new proposed objective to “increase the proportion of the voting age citizens who vote.”
Since 1980, Healthy People has developed comprehensive health and disease prevention objectives to improve the health and well-being of the nation. Healthy People 2030 is the fifth iteration of the initiative, and the new proposed objective will be added to the Healthy People 2030 website for further review and deliberation by Healthy People workgroups, the Federal Interagency Workgroup, and other subject matter experts.
The AAMC expressed previous support for the Healthy People initiative in its comments on the four core, development, and research objectives that were added to Healthy People 2030 in January, including advancing health equity, population health training, and workforce development [refer to Washington Highlights, Jan. 17, 2019]. Civic engagement is an important issue to the AAMC and the Center for Health Justice. In its most recent comments, the center commended the HHS for identifying voting as the next core objective, recognizing the “the immediate need to prioritize research on the relationship between civic engagement, health, and health equity, especially given this objective ‘doesn’t yet have evidence-based interventions developed to address it … or may not have reliable baseline data available.’”
The center also highlighted its recent public polling activities exploring how adults in the United States view their own level of civic engagement and the role health care institutions play in the promotion of civic engagement. Among other recommendations, the center suggested the HHS consider the following as the Interagency Workgroup continues its deliberations:
Explore the unintended consequences resulting from participation in political activities (e.g., increased polarization, threat of political violence), including a better understanding of how existing power structures influence personal relationships and health.
Identify the current and historical social and structural barriers in the electoral process, including those that promote systemic and structural racism, disproportionately impacting people from historically and intentionally excluded communities (e.g., felony disenfranchisement laws).
Consider the role organizations can play in the facilitation of civic engagement activities and the importance of building public trust as a key strategy for civic engagement.
Consider additional resources for inclusion on the Healthy People 2030 website such as the Seven Vital Conditions for Health and Well-Being framework, developed by the Well Being in Nation Network and established to bring together key determinants of health to identify community investments and leverage community change.
The center concluded its comments to the HHS with the recommendation that for the Healthy People framework to remain adaptable, relevant, and make meaningful progress, there must be opportunities for consistent multisector feedback including building collaborations with diverse individuals, communities, and respected organizations doing this work.