To the Editor:
These days, I find myself engaged in conversation, both inside and outside of the exam room, about the political process and its relevance to health and wellbeing. How can I get more involved in my community? Is it possible for me to feel better connected to those around me, and to something with larger meaning in the world? How do I make sure my voice is heard?
Deep questions like these are bound to come up in the course of intensely pursuing study here at Cornell. They form the basis of how we feel about ourselves, our sense of belonging, and our connectedness to our communities. While there are many ways to find engagement throughout the year, the fall election season poses a unique opportunity — to give back to your community, and also to gain something in return — by getting involved in the political process.
If you are eligible to vote in this year’s midterm elections on Nov. 6, I strongly urge you to do it. It does, in fact, matter to your health and wellness.
Various studies document an association between civic engagement and psychosocial wellbeing, with voting in particular being correlated with feelings of personal control and empowerment, efficacy and connectedness to one’s community. A study in the American Journal of Public Health found that populations with lower voter turnout are also associated with markers of poor health quality, independent of other determinants of health. While no studies have proven that voting itself causes better health outcomes, the associations are strong. Many people talk about the positive surge they feel after leaving the voting booths. Regardless of how they vote, it is the action of making their voice heard on a ballot that gives many people a boost.
The Association of American Colleges and Universities notes the benefit of voting for college students, providing an avenue for learning about engaged citizenry that is vital to higher education. For college students in particular, preparing to vote, especially in a midterm election, requires thought and planning. Should I vote at home by absentee ballot, or in New York State using my college address? Where would my vote mean more? Where is my polling location? How will I fit voting into my schedule on election day? These questions form the basis of thoughtful engagement in your community, and in the political process.
The social and behavioral parts of our lives — where and how we live, learn, eat, work, play, pray and engage in our community — have the greatest impact on the health of populations. During these difficult and tense times in our nation, I recognize that it can be difficult for many of us to see how our voice really matters. I encourage Cornellians to take the unique opportunity to express themselves at the ballot box. No matter how you vote, it is important way to stay connected, bring thought and intention to something with larger meaning, and begin the commitment to being an engaged citizen of the world.
Anne C. Jones ’04, DO, MPH
director of medical services, Cornell Health