Transforming Our Healthcare System Through Nonpartisan Civic Engagement

Historically, physicians have voted less often compared to the general population. The most common reasons include not being registered, unaccommodating work schedules, missed registration deadlines, and/or having no interest in politics.

But slowly, over time, the trends are changing. In “Analysis of Reported Voting Behaviors of US Physicians, 2000-2020”, Dr. Ahmed et al found that physicians were just as likely to vote as the general population in the midterm elections of 2018; and even more likely to vote than the general population in the presidential election of 2020.

This promising trend is in part due to the efforts of two key nonprofit organizations dedicated to transforming our healthcare system through nonpartisan civic engagement: Civic Health Alliance and Vot-ER, two Rx Foundation grant partners.

Civic Health Alliance

Civic Health Alliance is a nonpartisan coalition of health and civic leaders allied around a common cause: the advancement of America’s health through civic engagement in care settings and communities. The Alliance works at the intersection of medicine, public service, entrepreneurship, health policy, population health and community organizing to transform the American health care delivery system and achieve true health equity across our nation’s diverse communities.


Vot-ER is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to integrate civic engagement into healthcare. Vot-ER has developed nonpartisan civic engagement tools and programs for every corner of the healthcare system – from private practitioners to medical schools to hospitals. Their work is driven by a community of health care professionals, organizers, clinical students, and technologists united by a common vision: healthy communities powered by inclusive democracy.

Together, these entities provide: legal guides, voter registration forms or badges, flyers, premade emails, civic engagement fellowships, and programs providing funding, resources, and training to help health care professionals and organizations across the country offer nonpartisan voter registration and education to physicians and their patients.

Programs, Tools, and Trainings from Civic Health Alliance

  • Civic Health Compact: Civic Health Alliance convened 16 health and civic leaders to co-design an actionable framework and implementation guide for health care delivery systems and leaders to optimize civic engagement among their staff, patients, and communities. Their convening resulted in the release of the Civic Health Compact, a comprehensive roadmap for healthcare institutions and systems to begin to integrate civic engagement into their policies and practices. The Compact outlines a set of practices and policies for healthcare organizations and leaders to adopt, providing examples for implementation and offering guidance on how to define and measure progress around systemic civic engagement integration. The Compact addresses legal guidelines for civic engagement in healthcare settings, while offering real-world examples, in the hopes that healthcare organizations will create concrete policies and practices to promote their patient’s civic health.
  • Student Ambassador Program: A nationwide coalition of students engage in nonpartisan activities and advocate for healthy policies, while developing a project to increase their civic engagement as medical professionals.

Programs, Tools, and Trainings from Vot-ER

  • Vot-ER badges – an easy way for health care professionals to integrate civic engagement into their practice. Patients scan the badge’s QR code to access a non-partisan, self-service voter platform where they can register, request a mail-in ballot, and learn about upcoming elections.
  • Civic Health Month – nationwide celebration held each August to showcase the strengthening relationship between health care, healthy communities, and civic participation
  • The Community Civic Engagement program – provides funding, resources, and training to help clinics across the country offer nonpartisan voter registration and education to their patients
  • The Healthy Democracy campaign – national voter registration drive led by students in medical schools and health care professional degree programs
  • Civic Health Fellowship – healthcare leadership development where fellows learn how to organize, mobilize, and work with health care colleagues to launch a local civic access project at their institution

Civic Health Alliance and Vot-ER are making a profound impact. 

In July 2020, a team of doctors piloted a trainee-led intervention to motivate resident physicians to register to vote in Texas. In a research letter recently published in JAMA, Dr. Arteaga et al describe an organizing model where a few residents were “recruited to serve as civic engagement champions to engage their peers in voter registration”. These civic engagement champions reached a subset of their peers through text messages, conversations, hosting educational sessions, and distributing flyers. Two of the primary tools in the “Prepare” phase – one of five steps Dr. Arteaga et al outline as necessary to establishing a physician voter registration program – were created by Civic Health Alliance and Vot-ER, including free voter registration badges that physicians could wear. The results of the pilot were overwhelmingly positive – among the 191 eligible voters in the residency program, over 99% registered to vote. 

But that wasn’t all. Dr. Arteaga et al went on to note that “leading up to election day, resident physicians were observed discussing public policy and implications of state and federal laws on clinical practice”. In other words, physicians had come to realize the impact voting had on the care they could provide and the health of the patients they serve.

In recent years, the American Medical Association declared voting as a social determinant of health, in a resolution co-sponsored by the National Medical Association. Just this past December, the American College of Physicians released “Ensuring Equitable Access to Participation in the Electoral Process: A Policy Brief From the American College of Physicians” in the Annals of Internal Medicine, offering five clear recommendations to make “access to voting and the underlying electoral structures more equitable and responsive to the needs of all individuals and communities”.

  • ACP recognizes that voting impacts health and health care.
  • ACP supports policies that ensure safe and equitable access to voting and opposes the institution of barriers to both the process of voter registration and the act of casting a vote.
  • ACP supports the drawing of fair, representative, and nonpartisan electoral districts. ACP recognizes that partisan gerrymandering may exacerbate health inequities through the disenfranchisement of vulnerable communities and supports efforts to end the practice of partisan gerrymandering.
  • ACP encourages medical students, residents, physicians, and other health care professionals to vote and supports efforts to eliminate barriers to their participation in the electoral process.
  • ACP encourages nonpartisan health care–sponsored voter engagement as a strategy to increase health equity for patients and health care professionals.

As efforts to improve our collective civic health gain momentum, we want to uplift the ongoing resources, events, and webinars from Civic Health Alliance and Vot-ER, two foundational nonprofit organizations in the field dedicated to promoting health equity through nonpartisan civic engagement.

Celebrating Civic Health Month

It’s #CivicHealthMonth! Every August, over 300 organizations nationwide, including the American Medical Association, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the National Medical Association, join together to celebrate, learn, and take action to improve the civic health of their communities. This year, Civic Health Month is hosting its FREE annual conference on Friday, August 5th at 12-4:15pm Eastern….

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Embracing Civic Engagement as a Core Tenet of the Health Sector

In this webinar chaired by Civic Health Alliance, this panel features Dr. Stella Safo (Civic Health Alliance), Jeanne Ayers (Healthy Democracy Healthy People), and Aliya Bhatia (Vot-ER) in a conversation with each other about the challenges and opportunities with creating a movement around civic health. Embracing Civic Engagement as a Core Tenet of the Health…

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We Will Vote

This year Civic Health Alliance, Healthy Democracy Healthy People, and Vot-ER are coming together to partner on a strategic initiative (We Will Vote) to engage our organizations, employees, members, and those we serve in a coordinated effort to increase voter participation. 

We are partnering with the National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine (NASEM), Roundtable on Population Health to launch this critical We Will Vote initiative on February 8th at 2pm ET in a virtual webinar event

Speakers will include Sherri Johnson, Population Health Institute; Dr. Georges Benjamin, American Public Health Association; Jeanne Ayers, Healthy Democracy Healthy People; Aliya Bhatia, Vot-ER; and Stella Safo, Civic Health Alliance. 

More from Civic Health Alliance

  • Resources: use these resources to help your peers and patients register to vote
    • Actionable Resources
    • Social
    • Printouts
    • Legal Guides
    • Civic Health Alliance toolkit
    • RxVote
  • Webinars and Videos: we’ve taken the learnings from our various civic engagement efforts and hosted multiple webinars and virtual meet-ups, all of which can be found here!

More from Vot-ER

  • Dust off your badge: Let’s get those lanyards on! Need a new (and better) one? All updated badges now allow you to track your impact and see your results in real time! Get your trackable badge here.
  • Join us for kickoff workshops: 2024 is going to be jam packed with low-lift ways to activate your community. Join us for some kickoff meetings, trainings, and events:

    Vot-ER Basics: How to register voters using your badge
    February 13, 2024   |   7-8 pm Eastern
    Join us to learn the step-by-step of how to talk with patients and colleagues about voter registration, answer unique questions, and ultimately set your patients and colleagues up to build a habit of civic engagement. Experience how Vot-ER’s nonpartisan approach to connecting with patients about voting can help them turn out to vote. Come ready to practice your voting conversations. RSVP and join from a space where you can participate actively.

    Civic Health Partners 2024 Roadmapping
    February 7, 2024  |  4-5pm Eastern
    Join us for an interactive working session to draft your organization’s voter engagement plan for 2024. This session is best for organizational points of contact at Vot-ER partners. You’ll walk away with your plan for the year, coaching from our team, and resources to put it into action. Register now.
  • Connect with your Vot-ER regional organizer in February: Many of you will hear in the coming months from a regional organizer, please do make time to connect with and partner with them to grow our work in 2024. If you would like to set up a meeting, contact us at [email protected].
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