SOURCE: Orlando Sentinel
By Shannon Brockman, New Voices columnist
With the general election quickly approaching on Nov. 8, the time has come to make sure that your voice is heard.
As a pediatrician, I plan to use my voice and my vote to ensure that the needs of our state’s more than 4 million children are prioritized by our elected leaders. While not yet old enough to cast a ballot for themselves, there is a lot at stake for Florida’s children in this election. For their sake, I ask you to join me in taking time to learn about the candidates, and in voting for those who support the critical needs of children and families.
In our state, nearly one in four children live in poverty. This grim statistic spawns an unacceptable rate of child homelessness and hunger. In fact, recent findings published by the Children’s Defense Fund rank Florida 43rd of 50 states in child food security and fifth highest in the number of uninsured children. Further compounding the problem is evidence that our schools are falling short in educating our children, closing off a crucial pathway out of poverty. Florida suspends more high school students than any other state, contributing to poor on-time high-school graduation rates. Here again, Florida ranks 43rd out of 50 nationally for on-time graduations. Yet, while our schools struggle, it hasn’t gone unnoticed that our state spends almost twice as much per prisoner than per public school student.
I interact with children and families every day and have witnessed firsthand the influence that lawmakers have on child health and wellness. From school nutrition programs and paid family leave to violence prevention and environmental health, policy decisions at the local, state, and federal level have a profound impact on our children’s lives. Investing in children and families is not a short-term financial and political risk, but rather a sound, lasting, evidence-based commitment to the future. Programs such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Head Start, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Earned Income Tax Credit have had a clear, positive impact on health outcomes, school achievement and workforce competitiveness. Support for these programs and others help build a stronger America through stronger Americans.
Through the #VoteKids campaign, led by the American Academy of Pediatrics, pediatricians are using their voices to speak for children at the ballot box and encouraging others to do the same. In September, the AAP released its Blueprint for Children, which outlines policy recommendations to promote healthy children by supporting secure families, building strong communities and ensuring that the U.S. remains a world leader in caring for its children. As our most enduring and vulnerable legacy, our nation’s children must be at the center of policy discussions and deliberations at all levels of government. A thoughtful approach to optimum child development is the single best investment in the future that this country can make.
On Nov. 8, please join me at the polls and encourage your friends, family members and colleagues to do the same. We must use our vote to elect leaders in state legislatures and governors’ offices, in Congress and in the White House, who are committed to investing in programs and policies that keep our children, families and communities safe and healthy. Don’t forget — the deadline to register to vote in Florida is quickly approaching on Tuesday, Oct. 11.
Children are 25 percent of the U.S. population, but they are 100 percent of the future. I #VoteKids because, working together, we can make a real difference for vulnerable children and families.
Shannon Brockman, 28, of Orlando is a pediatric resident physician and child-health advocate.