August 4, 2020

how to live longer

We had an election today in Washington state. It was the primary. It used to be that I had to get up early, write my notes to myself about who I wanted to vote for, and trek to the local polling place and wait in line to cast my vote, hoping I would be done in time to make it to clinic to see my first patient. If not then I would have to come back later when the lines were longer.

Since moving back from New Mexico 7 years ago, that tradition has morphed. Now I get to research in the comfort of my home and complete my ballot, seal it in the envelope, sign it, and either walk to the neighborhood post office to mail it (no stamp needed) or take it to one of several ballot collection boxes around town. So civilized, so stress free, and even if I had forgotten until today, I have until midnight to get my ballot in.

Especially for hard working folks, mail-in voting is a gift. No long lines, no need to take time off from work, no need for a national holiday which they have in some countries. We should all be making it easier for citizens to vote, not harder.

Because voting really does matter to your health. As a physician who has worked in several states, some blue and some red, I have seen the difference that policies have on people’s health. These policies that help health tend to be stricter environmental and pollution laws, more protections for workers, better access to health care and health insurance, laws with stricter rules on guns and tobacco. Now a study confirms that people in blue states liver longer and are healthier than people who live in red states. I am not surprised, rather I am sad that these policies have been politicized and made to seem harmful, rather than the true help they are. Elections do matter. We should all care about the health and well being of all citizens.

Right now it seems the states that are hurting most from the pandemic are those same states that have lower life expectancies because of the lack of health care infrastructure, lack of insurance, lack of access to care, and poorer underlying health to begin with.

It is easy to look at those states and blame it on themselves, blame it on selfishness. However, I am realizing this not a new, modern reaction. The New York Times had an article today about the mask protests during the 1918 influenza epidemic, in which thousands died. Other countries are having push back about masks now, too. Some things never change,

But I like what our Washington Department of Health wrote in this blog about staying safe. Pretty much what we have already been doing: keep your circle small, visit outdoors, wear masks and keep your distance, and keep the time short. They also add: “Practice compassion” by remembering that you could be a spreader even without symptoms, so keep the distance to avoid spreading the virus and keep your community safe. We all need more of that attitude.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, and practice compassion- especially for yourself.