Choose “Health” in Our Upcoming Elections

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Photo: Jodi Matsuo
With elections coming up, there are many things people consider in deciding which candidates to support. As health is an issue that pertains to us all, learning the candidates’ viewpoints on the issues that affect a person’s health is important.

While we listen to their debates and read their platforms on healthcare reforms and policies, let’s not forget to play close attention to their position on those factors that influence health. These factors – the social determinants of health – are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age. This includes the resources available in our communities, quality of our schools, and safety of our workplaces.

Public health experts recommend five health behaviors that have been shown to reduce premature death, reduce risk of chronic disease (heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, etc.), and improve quality of life. These behaviors include: following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy body weight, not smoking, and not drinking alcohol excessively. These are all a matter of choice.

But what influences these choices? A person’s income affects the type of food they buy, which makes it important to support candidates advocating for raising minimum salaries or providing incentives for higher education to get better paying jobs. Having regular and reliable public transportation – to get to grocery stores, safe places to exercise, or to a doctor’s appointment – is an issue, especially on neighbor islands.

Electing officials that address physician shortages, including mental health professionals, is crucial in providing adequate access to health care services, for people to receive timely, regular health care and counseling. Supporting the right and ability to express your faith openly and respectfully helps people maintain their spiritual health, especially in Hawaiian culture where spirituality is the foundation of our families and who we are.

If we believe that health encompasses physical, mental, and spiritual health, then we know we must have pono in all these aspects in order to be healthy. Consider the factors that support your health and the health of your ʻohana when choosing the right candidate.