May 2021 update: We are partnering with the Voter Network to host an Introductory Webinar / Q&A Thursday, June 3 from 1-2 p.m. (RSVP here) and a 2021 Team Leader Kickoff Thursday, June 24 from noon-1 p.m. (RSVP here). We hope you will join us and congregations around the state in learning more about how we can further this critical work.
Many factors drive or determine health – how safe you feel in your community, access to parks, healthy food, high quality early learning and education, and, availability of health care providers and good paying jobs. These social factors will impact how healthy your community is and how healthy you are.
Now, more than ever, health is a life or death issue and decisions about your health are being made by elected officials. In some cases these are officials who have been elected at the local level by a very small portion of the population.
At the Health Fund, we are passionate about improving the health and wholeness of Kansans. Our work focuses on access to care, early childhood development and improving community and congregational health through the Healthy Congregations program. To achieve these goals we’ve funded programs, worked on policy and systems change and regularly convene partners, policymakers and community members.
However, we’re increasingly learning that the more civically engaged a community is, the healthier the community. Unfortunately, Kansans are not voting in local elections at healthy levels. According to the Civic Health Index of 2016, authored by the Kansas Health Foundation and the National Conference on Citizenship, Kansas ranks just 41st in the country in adults who report they vote in local elections. The report highlights: “Even more concerning is that certain population groups in Kansas exhibit even lower levels of political involvement, including Kansans with lower levels of income, education, and those from racial/ethnic minority backgrounds.”
With the understanding that civic participation is tied to community health and that Kansans are not politically active – especially at the local level – we see an opportunity to improve community health by improving civic engagement. That’s why we are excited to launch Faith in Democracy, an initiative dedicated to ensuring that every Kansan is able to be an informed, enthusiastic, engaged voter.
The Faith in Democracy Project is being led by the Voter Network – a nonpartisan nonprofit whose approach to boosting engagement includes supporting one voter in making the case to another voter that they need to be engaged in the process.
The project is aligned with our Healthy Congregations program, which aims to support congregations’ efforts to improve health through providing tools, resources and coaching.
As part of the Faith in Democracy initiative, we will provide tools to support our Kansas Healthy Congregations in ensuring their members are able to access the polls. The Voter Network will be providing digital resources, a sermon kit and regular information on how to support members in registering to vote, finding their polling place (or even better, in light of COVID-19, voting by mail), and knowing who is on their ballot.
The United Methodist Church has a long history working toward social justice and a deep commitment to fostering healthy communities. We know the way to ensure healthy communities is for each person to be engaged and to have a voice. And we believe voting is at the core of that engagement. We know many of you are already incorporating voter engagement through your ministry and we hope the resources available through the Voter Network and the Faith in Democracy Project will elevate your efforts.
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