As a medical student and future pediatrician, I plan to vote like our children’s futures depend on it in November. There is so much at stake for children’s health this election. From the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to affect families every day to the national conversation around the impact of racism in our country. There are many ways the policies can impact the health of children.
Voting is one of the most important ways we can influence the policies that run our cities, counties, states, and country.
In 2018, we learned that Texas had the unfortunate title of having the second-highest rate of uninsured children in the country, with almost 200,000 Texas children under six years old living without insurance coverage. Uninsured patients of all ages have difficulties accessing the care they need and, for kids, this means they may miss important checkups and vaccinations and may not get treatment for common childhood illnesses.
Today, experts believe uninsured rates are likely even higher, meaning more kids lack access to life-saving medical care.
On top of that, because of remote learning, many children who rely on free school breakfasts and lunches are living with hunger every day. Children without access to reliable internet and technology are falling even farther behind in their educational development compared to their classmates who are better equipped to participate in virtual school.
Vaccination rates are also down because of missed appointments, meaning our communities are more vulnerable to outbreaks of preventable diseases like measles, whooping cough, and meningitis. With all of this in mind, now more than ever, leaders must put children at the top of their agenda.
Every election matters and local officials – whose races can tend to get less attention – are creating policies that impact our day-to-day lives. Local school boards and city officials manage budgets funded by our tax dollars and work on many issues that affect our communities, like hurricane preparedness and hiring more teachers to reduce overcrowding in our schools.
State senators and representatives in Austin create policies that address child health issues, ranging from Medicaid to child abuse prevention and car seat regulations to vaccine recommendations. As we continue to face the pandemic, local and state officials will also need to work together on safely reopening schools, guided by science.
U.S. representatives and senators can pass policies that impact the health of children nationwide by advancing legislation to prevent gun violence, ensure immigrant children receive the care they need, and fight food insecurity, among many other priorities. Every race you see on your ballot can influence the health of the children in our communities. In Texas, even the Railroad Commissioner impacts our children’s futures by contributing to our response to climate change.
That is why I plan to use my opportunity in November to vote with children’s needs in mind. Their futures are shaped by the policies and laws passed by our leaders at every level of government, so we must vote with that urgency in mind on Nov. 3. Make sure you are registered to vote and have a plan to cast your ballot.
In Texas, the last day to register to vote is Oct. 5. The first day to early vote in person is Oct. 13. I encourage you to vote early to avoid the crowds on Election Day and to keep our community members, especially our poll workers, safe and healthy.
Children in Texas and across the country are counting on us and while they don’t have a vote, we do. Let’s vote like their futures depend on it.
-By Immy Clover-Brown, fourth-year medical student at Baylor College of Medicine