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Public Service Project posts highlight students at colleges and universities across the country within the IOP’s National Campaign for Political and Civic Engagement who are improving their communities through public service on their campuses.  As there are many different ways in which one can serve the public, the IOP aims to feature a broad collection of Campaign student public service experiences to inspire all of us to make a difference every day.

Authored by National Campaign student from Arizona State University Shireen Sarah Nouri.

Knowing What You’re Up Against and Facing it Head On: Politics and Health Care

While it feels like forever ago since the October conference, many of the lessons I learned still stir in my head. Lessons in team building, leadership in advocacy, and public speaking were all beneficial, but what really stuck out to me was something I have witnessed several times before. Out of nearly sixty students from across the nation, I was the only one with a background and interest in health care. This was not the first time I encountered this disconnect between politics and health care.

In order to begin to explain what kindled my interests in the relationship between politics and health care, I have to go back to the beginning: my sophomore year of undergrad. It was 2010 and news of The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, better known as SB 1070, hit Arizona. What was supposedly meant to improve the “safety” in neighborhoods only created hostility and fear across the state.  Many undocumented individuals left the state and hatred for Arizona grew nationally and globally. Musical artists refused to perform in Arizona. Taxi drivers in other countries would refuse rides to people from Arizona.

SB 1070 not only hurt Arizona economically; it hurt the very nature of its people: both citizens and undocumented individuals. Several protests occurred for months as people contested the unconstitutional nature of SB 1070.  While I attended a few of the protests, I realized that there were other ways to change legislature. I became a bilingual interviewer and researcher for the South Mountain Village Community Study. The study’s original purpose was to gather information about community and environmental health. Before SB 1070, researchers were welcomed into many homes; communities were vibrant and lively. After the announcement of SB 1070, things were different. Curtains were closed, doorbells were left unanswered, and hostility was prevalent.

The research experience allowed me to witness the impacts of poor legislation on the general health and wellness of a community, especially in the Mexican-American population. Gathering approximately ninety interviews in South Phoenix revealed how several families in the area felt like SB 1070 was a direct attack on their community. One of the most mortifying findings, as an aspiring physician, was that as a result of SB 1070, healthcare disparities amongst Latinos worsened. Especially, as families had become reluctant to obtain healthcare in fear of having their immigration status revealed. How is it that legislation can be created without any consideration of its health care effects? The politics and health care are not isolated entities. 

While my blog post today is simply an example of how politics can affect the health of others, I call upon my other campaign ambassadors, future politicians, and activists to know that there needs to be further dialogue between politics and health care. The two are not cut off from one another, but rather involved in ever evolving relationship. 

Shireen Sarah Nouri is a second year graduate student earning her Master’s degree in Applied Ethics and the Professions (Biomedical and Health Ethics) at Arizona State University. Shireen is involved in a variety of academic and research activities ranging from tutoring at-risk youth to researching the affects anti-immigration legislature on the access to health care in the South Phoenix area. Aspiring to become a physician and a community leader, she has realized the importance of understanding ethics and policy in improving access to health care for underserved and underprivileged communities.