Tell me what you’re for, not what you’re against

From left to right: Lariza Dugan Cuadra, Rashad Robinson, Abdi Soltani, Tom Steyer, and Mina Kim at The Commonwealth Club event on February 1, 2017.

1) First take a step back, and recognize what is going on today.

Currently, there is a broad-based undermining of fundamental rights in the US — the right to vote, to a free press, and to decisions based on scientific fact, for example. It is an undoing of what people of this country and some of their ancestors have struggled over centuries to create. This undermining of rights will affect our health. To that end, stay tuned for resources in the works by Public Health Awakened about what the 100 Days Plan means for health.

2) The way out is not the way we got here, to paraphrase Rashad Robinson.

We need change. What does that change look like? Panelists described it as activism between elections. Activism now. For public health folks the word “activism” can sometimes be iffy. In my work life, one way I interpret that is in advocating for health.

3) So, how do we interpret this specifically for health? What can public health do?

Identify 1 action you will take today in support of public health. If you’re interested in a specific issue, find one organization working on that topic and get involved. For example, there is work quickly coming together on topics like immigration, including a resource put together about 9 actions health departments can take to support immigrant rights. If that speaks to you, go deeper and find 1 action from the guide that you can take. If a different area speaks more strongly to you, reach out to groups already working within it. If that group doesn’t exist, talk with friends, colleagues, social media contacts, or other circles to start it up.

We’re for keeping families unified. We’re for supporting a lifelong course of rehabilitation instead of confinement. We’re for rights to a safe and healthy workplace, and the ability to fight without penalty for those conditions when employers fail to provide them. We’re for a right to medical care coverage, regardless of age, health, or existing conditions. We’re for fairness, tolerance, and acceptance of our neighbors who immigrated more recently than we did. We’re for equity. We’re for health.

And we’re for getting to say all of this without fear for safety or livelihood — saying it at the ballot box and between elections. Because to paraphrase Tom Steyer from the event, voting is a part of democracy, and this kind of advocacy for health is patriotism.

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