How Your Vote Improves Community Health

Each of us can do our part to increase opportunities in our community by voting. Voting is the key that unlocks the potential in our neighborhoods.

on April 1, 2024

This blog post was written with our patients and participants in mind.

Learn more about CCI’s commitment to accessibility.

Our community is a part of who we are. Each of us cares about our friends, family, and neighbors. We want to see them thrive and live their best lives. We can do our part to increase opportunities in our community by voting. Voting is the key that unlocks the potential in our neighborhoods.

Read on to learn how voting makes a difference in community health.

Voting is a part of civic engagement

Civic engagement is when we take action to improve our community. The most effective way to practice civic engagement is through voting. However, we also practice civic engagement when we respectfully share our opinions with local leadership, partner with neighbors, or volunteer our time and skills. If enough people participate in civic engagement, everyone in our community benefits.

How voting influences community health

There is a connection between voting and community health. Communities with higher voter turnout rates have better health outcomes, and people who vote tend to be healthier. Unfortunately, the opposite is true for communities with lower voter turnout rates. Communities that do not practice engagement suffer worse health outcomes.

The social determinants of health (SDOH)

The conditions in which we live affect our health. The social determinants of health (SDOH) are how we can assess the health of our community.

We can group SDOH into five categories:

Economic stability. Are there enough job opportunities in the community? Do residents have enough income to access healthy foods, health care, and affordable housing?

Education access and quality. Do enough students complete high school? Are children able to perform well in school? Are children with disabilities set up for success?

Health care access and quality. Do neighbors have access to a primary care physician (PCP)? Can they access preventative health services like cancer screenings?

Neighborhood and built environment. Are neighborhoods safe? Are there parks nearby? How clean is the air and water?

Social and community context. Do children have an adult they can speak with for support? Are relationships in the neighborhood positive?

SDOH influence community health outcomes in a big way. Research shows that they account for up to 50% of health outcomes. They are so important to our well-being that there are limits to what we can do for our health as individuals. Our personal health depends on community health.

How your vote can improve the health of your community

Voting is how we can positively change community health. We can advocate for initiatives that increase resources or choose to support candidates proven to understand the needs of our neighbors. Our vote can be a powerful tool.

Let us take road safety as an example. More than 42,000 people died in road traffic deaths in 2022 throughout the United States. That number is slightly lower than in 2021 but still higher than in recent years. Areas with neighbors on low incomes are more likely to experience road traffic deaths and injuries than high-income areas.

Everyone should be able to travel safely in their neighborhoods. We can do a lot to increase road safety for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists alike. Road safety is possible through collaboration between the local government, policymakers, and residents—and your vote makes it a reality.

If you think there is a need for more road safety measures in your community, you should find out where your local officials stand on the issue. You can share your thoughts on the issue at a public hearing or through email. When election season arrives, you can choose to vote for the candidate who best shares your position on the issue. Meanwhile, you can also start a petition among your neighbors to call for more road safety in the community to start the conversation.

Of course, road safety is just one potential voting outcome for a healthier neighborhood. Other examples include access to parks and green spaces, more job opportunities, and less air pollution. We can also prepare for future public health emergencies tomorrow when we exercise our right to vote today.

What to know about your right to vote

If you are eager to vote but have questions about the process, there are resources to help you understand.

First, we encourage you to read How to Vote: A Quick and Easy Guide by ProPublica. The guide is available in EnglishSpanish, Chinese (simplified and traditional), VietnameseTagalogArabicKoreanUrduHindi, and Bengali.

If you have specific questions about voting, you can call the Election Protection hotline toll-free. The hotline is available in several languages:

  • English: 866-687-8683
  • Spanish: 888-839-8682
  • Asian Languages: 888-274-8683
  • Arabic: 844-925-5287

Visit the 866 Our Vote website for more information about voting in Maryland.

Other approaches to civic engagement

What if you are not able to vote? There is still much more you can do to create healthy neighborhoods. Below are ways you can help your community.

Encourage the people in your life to exercise their right to vote. Use the information you learned in this blog to educate your family and friends on why voting is important. Remember that your opinion can be very influential!

Follow the local news. If you are familiar with the needs of your community, you can focus on the solutions. Local news sources in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties include Source of the Spring, the MoCo Show, MoCo360, Montgomery Al Dia, the Prince George’s Post, and Montgomery County Media (disponible en español.)

Volunteer your time. Every community depends on people who care enough to give their time and support to help their neighbors. You can find volunteer opportunities for any skill level. Visit VolunteerMatch to find a local nonprofit role. For more volunteer opportunities and resources, you can also visit the Mongomery County Volunteer Center or Prince George’s County Parks and Recreation.

Subscribe to our email list. Community health centers like CCI depend on government funds to operate. We receive support each year because neighbors like you let Congress know that community health is important. Sign up to receive our emails, and we will contact you when your representatives need to hear your voice!

Healthy neighborhoods start with each neighbor doing their part. If you understand the role civic engagement plays in community health, you will find the passion to help create the environment your community deserves. Your vote is your voice so make it count!