Stephanie Y. Fong Gomez, MD, MS and Noor Chadha, MS2

 

Pediatric medical homes have a powerful, underutilized opportunity to promote civic engagement among adolescents and families, resulting in healthier patients and communities. Emerging evidence shows that voting early in life is associated with healthier behaviors, positive mental health outcomes, and economic benefits over the life course. However, young people, low-income people, and people of color face structural, psychological, and logistical barriers to voting. Underrepresented among voting members of the electorate, they are less likely to access health benefits associated with voting and vulnerable to policies that worsen health inequities.

At the Primary Care Center at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, a federally-qualified health center that serves low-income, culturally-diverse families, we have collaborated with the nonprofit Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center to create a comprehensive, nonpartisan voter engagement and registration program. The VOICE Project will take a strengths-based approach by bringing local student leaders from underserved backgrounds to our clinic waiting rooms to register, educate, and empower adolescents and family members to vote. We will also train physicians and staff at our clinic’s Family Information and Navigation Desk to recognize the role of civic participation in patients’ health and to incorporate simple yet effective tools like asking about voting during routine psychosocial screening. Finally, through a mixed-methods evaluation protocol, we will evaluate the program’s impact and explore stakeholders’ perspectives in order to ensure sustainability and tailor the program to the unique needs and concerns of young people in Oakland. Ultimately, the VOICE Project aims to increase democratic participation and reduce health disparities rooted in structural and political inequity locally in Oakland and nationwide.

If you would like more information or are interested in incorporating voter engagement at your clinic, contact stephanie.fonggomez@ucsf.edu

For more information, including project updates and activities, visit the VOICE Project website:

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Meet the project leaders:
Stephanie Y. Fong Gomez, MD, MS was born and raised in the Bay Area and has spent over a decade serving its youth and families through schools, nonprofit spaces, collaborative research efforts, and clinical care. A child advocate working at the intersection of pediatrics, community engagement, and urban health equity, she is invested in upstream solutions to address a broad range of child health issues, including racial justice, immigration, education, and health care access. She is an active member of AAP SOPT and AAP-CA1 Advocacy Committee and recently co-chaired the inaugural Advocating for Children Together Conference. She is an alumnus of Johns Hopkins University and the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program and a pediatric resident at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland.

Noor Chadha is a 2nd year medical student and masters student at the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program who strives to integrate her core values of justice, joy, and compassion throughout her life and medical journey. In medical school her advocacy has included working on the VOICE Project, advocating for anti-racism in medicine, coordinating medical student volunteers at the Womxn’s free clinic of the Suitcase Clinic, and mentoring pre-med students. Noor also has a B.A. from UC Berkeley, where she majored in Molecular and Cell Biology and minored in Global Poverty and Practice.

 

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