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Vot-ER gives first civic engagement award in Hawaiʻi to Molokaʻi health center

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Molokaʻi Community Health Center. Photo Courtesy

Molokaʻi Community Health Center has received Hawaiʻi’s first $4,500 Community Civic Engagement Program award from Vot-ER and its partners to support nonpartisan voter education and engagement.

The award comes on the heels of the American Medical Association’s acknowledgement of voting as a social determinant of health at its annual meeting held earlier this month.

As a trusted resource to help the Native Hawaiian patient population overcome historically low voter turnout and voting barriers, Molokaʻi Community Health Center (MCHC) will use the funds to provide voter education resources and training for its patients.

Increasing access to voting by Molokaʻi’s marginalized community is a nonpartisan voter engagement effort by MCHC intended to promote voting and civil rights secured by law, a news release said.

“Alongside an equitable economy and resilient environment, a just democracy is a central pillar to creating a healthy and vibrant community,” said Helen Kekalia, CEO of Molokaʻi Community Health Center. “Supporting equitable representation should be an imperative for us all in order to ensure those who are most marginalized have a voice and say in how they engage in our democracy.”

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Kekalia said the Native Hawaiian population the health center serves are the same residents underrepresented in elections.

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Over the past couple of years, MCHC has become a community hub by augmenting its health care services with resources and support, including advanced dental care and a food pantry distribution, uniquely positioning it to educate Native Hawaiian residents about their rights and access to voting.

Aliya Bhatia, executive director of Vot-ER, said: “Deeply rooted health centers like the Molokaʻi Community Health Center are vital partners in our work to build a more inclusive democracy.

Vot-ER has more than 500 participating hospitals, health centers and clinics across the country. Eligible community health centers can apply for the Community Civic Engagement Program award and receive up to $5,000 to expand nonpartisan voter engagement by visiting https://vot-er.org/ccep/. The application deadline is July 15, 2022.

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For this program, Vot-Er has partnered with the National Association of Community Health Centers and AltaMed.

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