Your Vote is Your Voice: Advocating for Children through the Power of the Vote Posted on October 5, 2022 Election Day is Tuesday, November 8, and voters across the state will have the chance to cast their ballots for a number of state and federal candidates who are running for office. Those who are ultimately elected will have the ability to make laws that govern many aspects of a child’s world. At Connecticut Children’s, we see first-hand the ways government decisions impact children’s lives and we partner with policy makers to share our pediatric expertise and help them create a healthier world for kids and families. >Make sure you’re prepared to vote in November by checking out our 2022 Voters’ Guide. We spoke with Connecticut Children’s Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Jung Park, about what motivates him to “vote for kids” this year. Become a Connecticut Children’s Champion! Get timely updates on laws and policies that affect children, and learn how to help. Subscribe Why do you plan on voting this year? Advocacy is all about supporting those who may not be able to advocate for themselves. When it comes to our elections, kids cannot vote, but the adults who care for them can. Voting is an opportunity to be a voice for children and help elect leaders who you believe will support children’s optimal health and wellbeing and create the greatest opportunities for kids and families to succeed. >Not registered to vote? Register online here. Why do you view voting as important for children’s health? There are a myriad of factors (sometimes referred to as the social determinants of health) that help shape a child’s life, many of which are influenced by the laws and policies of our local, state, and federal governments. As an example, accidents are the leading cause of childhood mortality. State legislators have the ability to pass laws on issues like firearm and teen driving safety to help keep kids safe. Additionally, state and federal budgets can help support programs that are critically important to kids and families, like investments in the Medicaid program, funding for schools, and more resources to combat the children’s behavioral health crisis. > Related: Top 10 Ways to Make Sure You’re Ready to Vote Was there a specific event that sparked your interest in advocacy/civic engagement? Great question! I think that many of us in pediatrics are naturally drawn to advocacy because our jobs require us to think about how to best serve those who often cannot advocate for themselves—kids! Working for Connecticut’s only independent children’s hospital and seeing how government decisions impact not only our health system but kids and families has definitely deepened my appreciation for the importance of advocacy. From your perspective, what are some of the most pressing issues when it comes to children’s health? Top of mind for me and many of my colleagues is children’s behavioral health. Thankfully last year, the state legislature passed new children’s behavioral health legislation but after so many years of underinvestment, there is still much work to do to ensure that kids have access to the mental health care they need, when and where they need it. I am also concerned about health equity since we know that unfortunately, where you live and how much you earn in Connecticut can sometimes determine what resources you have access to. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted this through affordability challenges and speed inequities with internet access. We need to ensure that all kids, regardless of their zip codes, their race, or their health insurance status have access to services. You mentioned that the state legislature passed significant children’s behavioral health legislation but despite this progress, there is still much work to do. How does the children’s behavioral health crisis factor into your voting decisions? Government leaders have the power to strengthen our children’s behavioral health system in many ways, like increasing investments in community-level services, supporting programs to strengthen our healthcare workforce, and targeting resources to those communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. A candidate’s stance on the children’s behavioral health crisis and whether or not a candidate supports increasing access to services and strengthening safety-net programs like Medicaid, certainly factors into my decision when heading into the voting booth. What advice do you have for parents whose children may be seeing political ads on TV and have questions about our elections? I talk to my son and daughter at home and use it as an opportunity to talk about what it means to be a part of a community and how voting and civic engagement can help strengthen that community. We all know there is a lot of divisiveness out there, but we have the power to help change that for the next generation by encouraging civil discourse and listening to one another. There are also some great children’s books out there to help with this conversation. PBS Kids has a great list of picture books about voting and elections. Another fun idea is to get some craft supplies and have your child design their own campaign poster. Talk to them about what sort of changes they would like to see in the world and how they would respond to the prompt, “If I were governor…” If you had the opportunity to engage with a candidate, what sort of questions would you ask them to learn more about their stances on critical children’s health issues? Great question, because oftentimes during the election season you might attend a candidate forum or have campaigns calling your home or knocking on your door asking for your vote. Here are a few of the types of questions I might ask: What do you think is the most pressing issue facing children today and what are your plans for tackling that? How do we ensure that all families, regardless of race, income-level, and zip code have access to high-quality and affordable health care? Our state and nation are both facing healthcare workforce shortages. What are your plans to ensure we have enough healthcare workers so that kids and families are able to access care where and when they need it? The children’s behavioral health system has been overburdened and under resourced for many years. What are your plans to expand access to pediatric behavioral health services in Connecticut? >Related: 6 Questions to Ask Your State Candidates Studies show that people are more likely to vote when they have a plan. What is your plan to vote this year? (ie; are you voting absentee, voting in the morning, voting after work, going with your spouse/partner, taking your kids with you, etc…) As with every voting season, my wife and I get up extra early to get to our polling location 15-20 minutes before they open. The lines that we always encounter at that time tell us that we’re not alone in our thinking. With my parents having moved to Connecticut, it will be a veritable party at 5:45 am this year! >Share a selfie of why you are using your voice and voting with kids in mind this year.