Soapbox

Here’s how voting can improve your health

Angela Henriquez, second from left, hugs her children, Jessica, left, and Fernando at a news conference in March outside the federal courthouse announcing a lawsuit against the Trump administration over its decision to end a program that lets immigrants live and work legally in the United States.
Angela Henriquez, second from left, hugs her children, Jessica, left, and Fernando at a news conference in March outside the federal courthouse announcing a lawsuit against the Trump administration over its decision to end a program that lets immigrants live and work legally in the United States. AP

It has been said that a nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members. By that standard, we really do need to make America great again.

Our national leadership has launched a direct attack on our most vulnerable residents – not just in harsh rhetoric, but in policies that have hurt children, made scapegoats of the poor and limited opportunities for those struggling to achieve the American dream.

That is why the Nov. 6 election is the most important of our lives. I believe it will define the character of America.

Opinion

The health of all of us depends on this election. We want everyone to vote, especially those who have so much at stake. We believe that democracy is good for your health.

There is a direct relationship between public policies that victimize poor people and their health. This is costly for individuals and for society.

We hear new evidence almost daily. A study at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health is just the latest. The researchers looked at the rate of premature births in New York City among U.S.-born women and immigrants before and after the 2016 presidential election. Premature births are considered an important marker in determining a population’s health.

Anthony Iton new.jpg
Anthony Iton

The rates of preterm births overall have gone up since the election, especially among immigrants, who have been targeted by the Trump administration. Nancy Krieger, a professor of social epidemiology at Harvard and lead author of the study, told Vox that the administration’s policies negatively impact health in several ways, including acute and chronic stress.

The current anti-immigrant narrative is dehumanizing and is resulting in measureable health consequences.

That’s why everyone must vote on Nov. 6, and then participate in rebuilding our democracy. We must change the narrative, and we have the power to do just that if we seize the opportunity.

In this narrative of inclusion that we must tell, California has created a bubble of inclusion and solidarity. This is not happening in every community, of course, which is why we are investing so much in our Building Healthy Communities work.

But in many ways, we are showing the way forward.

Anthony Iton is senior vice president of the California Endowment overseeing the 14 Building Healthy Communities projects. He can be contacted at AIton@calendow.org.

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