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10 Civic engagement as a means to improve health equity
  1. Aliya Bhatia1,
  2. Alister Martin2,
  3. Rose Teszler1
  1. 1Vot-ER
  2. 2Massachusetts General Hospital


Background Patients’ socio-economic, political, and environmental contexts are shaped by public policy. Inequitable public policy creates contexts that lead to poor health. Evidence indicates that those who bear the brunt of health inequities are also most likely to be excluded from the democratic process. Healthcare providers’ proximity to marginalized patients and status as trusted messengers creates favorable conditions for them to participate in non-partisan civic engagement.

Objectives To provide the background, tools, and support necessary for healthcare providers to address the social drivers of poor health by asking patients about their voter registration status.


  • Vot-ER developed the Healthy Democracy Kit (HDK) in 2020 to adapt to the COVID pandemic’s added barriers to traditional voter registration

  • Health care workers and medical students were recruited via institutional and professional listservs

  • Participants were prompted to watch an instructional video emphasizing that all conversations about voter registration must be nonpartisan, voluntary, and sensitive to voter eligibility requirements


  • Over 500 hospitals and clinics plus 25,000 healthcare providers use Vot-ER’s tools

  • 240+ organizations celebrate August as Civic Health Month

  • Surveyed providers report increased knowledge of links between civic participation and health, improved well-being, and greater civic engagement

Conclusions Vot-ER’s work over the past 18 months serves as a “proof of concept” that hospitals/clinics are ready to take on the role they’re authorized to have under the 1993 National Voter Registration Act.

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