The Importance of a Civically Engaged Health Center

This blog post is part of a series sharing voter registration and civic engagement tips and ideas from health center advocates. If your health center is offering voter registration and you would like to write a guest blog post, email your post to CHCVote@nachc.org.

Guest blog post by Jason W. Wadsworth, Voter Engagement Coordinator with Nevada Health Centers, Inc.

The Importance of a Civically Engaged Health Center

Currently operating throughout frontier, rural, and urban areas of Nevada, Nevada Health Centers (NVHC) is the largest provider of primary care for the uninsured and/or geographically isolated in the state. In some cases, the rural health centers operated by NVHC are the only health care facilities in rural areas.

This is the inaugural voter engagement effort for Nevada Health Centers. NVHC understands the world of public policy and civic life feels out of reach for most people. However, we believe it is the role of health centers like NVHC to ensure that the community at large is involved in policy and civic decisions that affect every one of its people. The right to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy. The democratic process works best when each individual asserts their equal right to vote. Health Centers who register voters and encourage their patients and staff to vote are essential to making our democracy as well as our communities healthy.

On National Voter Registration Day, September 25, 2012, Nevada’s Secretary of State Ross Miller visited our Martin Luther King Center to see and help publicize NVHC’s Voter Registration and Voter Education Effort. Several media outlets covered Secretary Miller’s visit and interviewed me. Nevada Health Centers has also teamed up with Mi Familia Vota to register voters at all of our Clark County Centers. Secretary Miller was given a tour of the facilities and commented on the high quality of care that our patients received.

By integrating voter registration into the healthcare services we confirm the Health Center’s role as a significant part of our community. Health centers are a natural place for helping the community to become informed and civically engaged. Furthermore, our civic engagement program helps Nevada Health Centers meet the organization’s mission.

Our voter engagement process starts with our staff by motivating them to become more civically minded. A civically engaged staff becomes a natural extension of our daily activities and is consistent with our founding purpose of being leaders in our communities. Part of changing the culture of Health Centers is to ensure that the staff is educated on the historical role that Health Centers once played as focal points for engaging their communities not only on health issues, but public policy as well.

Pictured: Jason W. Wadsworth, Voter Engagement Coordinator; Debra Tonney, Director of Nursing; and Ross Miller, Secretary of State

Identifying partners internally in the organization is as important as identifying external partners. Our staff at Nevada Health Centers recognizes the importance of voter and civic engagement. During ten days of voter registration, we registered approximately sixty voters. To thank our staff, I provided lunch at each of our centers to thank them for being energetic and participating in the civic engagement effort. While we began late, we now know, the sky is the limit for engaging our Health Centers and our community!

–Jason W. Wadsworth

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