Medicaid, Civic Engagement, and the Digital Divide.
Reflecting on the past 6 months, America has had a reckoning with not only its healthcare system, but the very social fabric of our country. The election is underway, tech is booming, and the way we connect nationally and internationally is evolving. How can we have made such leaps and bounds, yet still experience radical cognitive dissonance in our health and civic engagement?
We as a nation can no longer deny that we are deeply economically and healthcare insecure:
- In the 19-25 age group, young adults who were not in school were also twice as likely to be uninsured than their enrolled peers
- Only 59% of seniors 65+ have broadband in their homes.
- 42 percent of women in the low-paid workforce live near or below the federal poverty line
- 55% of African Americans and 60% of Hispanics identified poor access to a vehicle as a barrier that could result in missing a cancer treatment
- In some areas, Hispanic, Latino and other nonwhite workers have accounted for 73% of COVID cases related to workplace outbreaks
All communities face unique social determinants of health, but the health inequities that result are felt to a greater effect in underserved communities.
The way you live impacts your health and your health impacts the way you live. As we approach this major election, we need to talk about the barriers that voting and healthcare share: transportation, safety, work flexibility, overcrowding in a pandemic, and the locations of clinics and polling places, or lack thereof.
Too often, intentional barriers are placed in the paths of the underserved, the unnecessary bureaucracy is intended to disenfranchise entire communities. People are manipulated into accepting their circumstances; they are told they do not have a voice, they will not be heard, and that their circumstances are of their own doing. When we feel voiceless and powerless it’s all too easy to disengage from the healthcare we need or perform our civic duties.
We must energize the underserved. It will take collaboration between the private sector, public sector, and the advocacy of grassroot efforts, but the participation of the disenfranchised in healthcare and civic arenas is imperative to an equitable future.
Some of the ways we can meet our healthcare and civic benchmarks are:
- First and foremost: expand Medicaid, which has been proven to increase voter registration.
- Forge partnerships between government and tech to create avenues that can technologically reach low income people
- Increase broadband access, creating pathways to technology by establishing hotspots in public institutions and public spaces that can be accessed at all times
- Build the trust to collect data which can be analyzed for nuances and insights into healthcare and social needs.
The right thing to do is to put cultural, educational and digital literacy in the forefront and watch the country blossom. These changes will not create equity overnight, but it’s the start we need to demonstrate that everyone in this country deserves to participate in our health and governing systems. Poverty looks different today, and so do the solutions we need. Breaking down the barriers of poverty leads to better health and civic outcomes.
We are only as healthy as the least healthy member of our society.