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Vote Like Your Health Depends On It

The 2016 election isn’t just about Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump. It’s about you, your health and the health of your family and community.

The person you put in the White House, as well as the candidates elected to state, local and federal government will have the power to pass policies, regulations and laws that will impact your life,especially your health. Policies, regulations and laws have more bearing on our health than genetics, affecting where we live, where we work, our means of transportation, earning ability and everyday lives.

Think about it. Your state or local government sets zoning requirements for residential housing and industrial sites, and the placement or condition of each could affect your quality of life, especially if you’re closer to an industrial site with environmental toxins that exacerbate chronic conditions like asthma or living in housing that exposes residents to toxic chemicals such as lead. In many states, cuts to educational programs like state-funded college scholarship programs keep young adults out of college, potentially preventing them from accessing jobs that provide at least a living wage. We are also seeing disturbing trends as states pass laws that restrict women’s access to reproductive health care, infringing on their right to choose and access the type of health care they need.

Actions by the federal government also have the ability to impact your health. Federal and state changes to social welfare programs, like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), hurt children and families who depend on them to meet their basic needs like daily meals. And we know, a hungry child has difficulty concentrating and, in return, cannot learn. In addition, women are having to make the unconscionable choice between working and raising a family due to the lack of affordable and accessible childcare and lack of a requirement for employers to offer adequate paid maternity leave, thereby, preventing mothers from thriving in the home and the workplace. Moreover, acts by federal policymakers to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the refusal of some state governors to expand Medicaid threaten most Americans ability to access quality, affordable health care.

Social factors like employment, housing and the economy — which contribute to your physical, emotional and financial health — are in play with the outcome of this election. There’s a lot at stake and everyone should vote like their health depends on it.

At the Black Women’s Health Imperative, our work centers on the notion that regardless of race, sex or socioeconomic status, everyone has the right to live a long, healthy life and have access to quality, affordable health care. A woman’s quality and length of life shouldn’t depend on where she lives, how much money she makes, who she loves or the color of her skin. However, studies show that where we are born and grow up affects the overall health and wellness of each of us.

That’s why you should vote. Because the choices you make at the polls — or don’t make if you choose not to vote — have a direct effect on the communities where you were born, grew up and live today. Your choices can help or harm the quality of life and health for you and the people in your community. So, I challenge you to vote for the candidates whose platforms best reflect your concerns and priorities for a healthy today and future for you and your family. The physical, emotional and financial health of your family and community depend on it.