This guest post is written by Aldon HynesRecently, I attended the Commission on Health Equity roundtable discussion at the Capitol. To the best of my knowledge, there was only one other candidate for the state legislature in the audience, an incumbent who has fought long and hard for health equity.
While the lack of attendance by candidates was disappointing, it was no surprise. Health equity isn’t one of those topics that get a lot of attention. As a candidate for State Representative, I am frequently getting advice about which topics to discuss on the campaign trail. According to public opinion polls, everyone is focused on job creation or the economy. Health care, let alone health equity doesn’t make it on the list.
This raises a big issue for people that care about health equity. How do you get legislators to care about the issue? The obvious answer might be to get voters engaged in the issue and talking with candidates about it, but getting voters interested in the issue is an equally daunting task. The answer might lie in getting the news media to cover issues, but you run into the same conundrum, the news media covers what they think people are interested in and if voters and politicians aren’t talking about an issue, the media is less likely to cover it.
We need people to be champions of the issue, to talk about it on the campaign trail, both as voters and as candidates. For more information on running for office in Connecticut, read A Bully Pulpit for Health Equity. The CT Health Foundation’s Health Leadership Fellows Program is important in helping raise up these leaders. It was this program that led me to become more involved the fight for health equity and to try and bring it to the campaign trail.
Talking about health equity on the campaign trail is a challenge. I live in a predominantly white district. People tend to think health disparities don’t affect them. They tend to avoid discussions about race or privilege.
So how do we get more candidates talking about health equity on the campaign trail? That’s where I need your help. That’s where all candidates need your help. Let us know that it is an important issue to you. Help us find ways to relate it to the lives of people in our districts. Help us with information and to find words that can start meaningful discussions and not shut down discussions.
Let’s talk with legislators while they are still candidates so that the next time the Commission on Health Equity has a roundtable there is greater involvement. Then, after you’ve spoken with candidates in your districts about health equity, don’t forget to get out and vote as well.
Aldon Hynes is running for State Representative in Woodbridge, Connecticut. He is also a social media manager at the Community Health Center, Inc. He has been using media socially since he shared his coloring books in kindergarten. Since then, he has helped politicians, non-profits, corporations and others use online social media tell their story online. Connect with Aldon on Twitter