There are huge pressures on parents today. Your kids' health, happiness, entertainment, companionship and education have suddenly fallen squarely—and 100%—on your shoulders. Let's be clear, this is historic: Rarely in human history have parents ever had so much piled onto them, with so little family and community support to help carry the burden. As our access to the "village" has evaporated thanks to the pandemic, many parents are feeling the crunch.
So, perhaps it's unfair of me to add one more to-do, but I promise, it's feather-light: Just VOTE!
As a pediatrician, I want to share with my view of the critical family health issues at stake in this election, and why I am urging parents especially to make their voices heard.
1. Paid parental leave needs your vote
Parents need help—and they deserve it. For thousands of years, new parents had the help of an entourage of other adults (aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins). But today, that support system for new parents is often tiny to non-existent.
Helping young families is not charity, it's a smart investment in our nation's greatest treasure: families and children.
Many countries have shown that policies supporting new families lower maternal stress, boost breastfeeding and reduce preterm births and infant hospitalizations. Policies that support parents benefit the entire economy, because parents are the ones working so hard to raise the next generation of innovators, scientists, workers, poets… and taxpayers.
2. Better mental health is worth your vote
With so much more stress on new parents, it's no wonder that 20% of U.S. moms suffer from postpartum depression or anxiety.
The good news is that new studies are pointing to innovative and creative ways to help parents avoid suffering postpartum stress. The bad news: Some politicians are trying to cut funding for public health. Better mental health care for more people, right now when we need it most, is worth protecting.
3. Early childhood education will fail without your vote
The first five years of a child's education are way more than mud pies and finger painting. By the tender age of 2, the brain is already plumped up to 85% of an adult brain with two times more nerve connections—there's a huge amount of important learning happening in those early years. Yet, some politicians are trying to cut funding for public education.
The studies prove that early childhood programs pay off. For each $1 spent, we get $8 in long-term benefits, including higher IQs, less crime, a boost in wages and better health. That's why our dedicated early education specialists deserve a wage that's equal to their important responsibility. We're tasking them to inspire an entire generation of problem-solvers and optimists and people who will make a contribution to greater good.
Yet, few states cover infant and toddler programs… and several still fail to offer state-funded pre-K.
4. Smart preventative health care will be cut without your vote
As you learned in kindergarten: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Yet, some politicians are trying to take away access to quality low-cost health care.
Making sure that all moms get prenatal care and all kids get well baby exams, nutritional support and immunizations goes a long way toward keeping families healthy, and cutting costs. For example, vaccines prevent an estimated 42,000 deaths per year as well as 20 million cases of disease, while preventative care significantly extends life expectancy. And guess what: That saves taxpayers billions of dollars!
5. Environmental protection is needed now, and your vote may help save the planet
Atmospheric carbon dioxide is the highest level it's been in the past—wait for it—800,000 years! The decade from 2010-2019 was the hottest ever. The Arctic hit 90 degrees this summer. The massive ice sheet in Greenland is melting at a pace of 50 miles per year. And as a result, within the next 50 to 100 years, every American coastal city could flood.
Just think about how much that will cost our nation. Global warming is spawning monster storms and kneecapping farmers with droughts and floods, creating public health crisis after public health crisis. Warming temperatures are also bringing painful and deadly mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, malaria and dengue to areas that have never experienced them—perhaps even your area.
The next four years may determine the next 400 years of climate health. But if we act now, we can help protect the world for generations to come.
So, please, make a plan, tell a friend and get out there and VOTE!