From the desk of Kelly Wolfe, director or public policy and advocacy at Children’s Minnesota
At Children’s Minnesota, we believe that kids are the most amazing people on Earth. And because of that, every day we champion the health needs of children and families. This election season, we know there are a lot of issues to consider but we want to make sure that we all keep the best interests of our kids top of mind.
Kelly Wolfe and Dr. Marc Gorelick, president and CEO, talk about the upcoming election
Why do kids’ issues matter?
Without an ability to vote, kids count on us, the adults in their lives, to look out for their best interests and pass policies that benefit them and set them up for a healthy and successful life. There are 1.3 million children under 18 in Minnesota who cannot vote. That is more than one-fifth of our entire state’s population. Kids are impacted every day by so many issues, including the access and quality of health care they receive, funding related to early childhood opportunities, food resources and school meal programs, housing and academic and health disparities.
As we have conversations with candidates running for office, it’s important to raise awareness about the issues that impact our children. Talking about issues related to the health and well-being of children will signal to our elected officials that these are issues people care about – and so should they.
What impacts our kids?
These are some of our priority issues that we hope you keep in mind at the ballot and beyond:
Nationally, Medicaid is the single largest health insurer of kids. More than 600,000 children in Minnesota rely on Medicaid for their health care coverage and services. Medicaid covers well-child check-ups, medications, hospitalizations, behavioral health and mental health screening and treatment as well as rehabilitation and occupational therapies. Our children depend on a robust and stable Medicaid program.
Early childhood development
More than 80 percent of a child’s brain development occurs by the age of 3, and that goes up to 90 percent by age 5. We know that children who have access to early childhood opportunities such as home visiting programs and high-quality early care and education have better health outcomes and increased academic achievement and graduation rates. There is no better long-term investment than investing in our youngest children.
One in eight Minnesota children face hunger on any given day. Research shows that children who experience food insecurity are more likely to struggle in school, have increased abseentism and exhibit behavior and developmental problems. They are more likely to experience stomachaches and headaches and are more at risk for mental health problems and depression. Programs such as the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and funding for school meals can help ensure our kids get the adequate nutrition they need.
Structural racism and health disparities
Children’s Minnesota named structural racism as a community health priority in both 2016 and 2019. We know that the systems and policies that have been put in place for years has caused and perpetuated trauma and stress which exacerbates both physical and mental health symptoms and contributes to the health disparities we see in our health care system. Minnesota has some of the worst academic and health disparities in the country and many start before birth. We see these in our low-birth weight babies, asthma rates, mental and behavioral health services for kids, vaccinations and health care access. Some of these disparities can be addressed through investments in social determinants of health such as housing, economic opportunities and investments in family support services.
We invite you to join us in being a voice for children by prioritizing our kids with your vote. Learn more about how you can be an advocate for kids’ health here.
How to register to vote
You can register to vote online, by mail or in person. Mail-in and online registration needs be completed by October 13th. You can also register and vote in person on election day. Visit the Minnesota Secretary of State site for detailed instructions on registration.