Innovations at the Intersection of Health Care, Democracy, and Civic Engagement
Rishi Manchanda, MD MPH, Founder & Chair, Rx Democracy
About the Seminar
Health is essential to full participation in democracy and health care represents roughly one-sixth of the U.S. economy. Dr. Manchanda’s upcoming seminar is based on experience exploring and building the relationship between participatory democracy and health, including his work as the founder of a national nonpartisan network of health care providers called Rx Democracy, which advances civic engagement and registered over 26,000 voters in doctors’ offices and clinics in 2008. During the seminar, we will discuss challenges and innovations at the intersection of health care and democratic governance and consider next steps for research, practice, and policy.
Disease and disparities in health are the result of interactions between biological phenomena, poor living and working conditions, unhealthy behaviors, and limited access to quality health care, including routine primary care and prevention. While health disparities tend to mirror and drive widening civic participation gaps, less well understood is the extent to which lack of power and political efficacy are determinants of poor health outcomes and health disparities. A predominantly biomedical approach to health care obscures influences of social and civic determinants, limits innovation to address these determinants through the practice of medicine, neglects health care’s civic role, and diminishes health care’s impact on the health of populations. This approach is reflected in and fundamentally impacts the way health care is perceived, taught, funded, and organized as well as the way health itself is popularly perceived. By advancing representative and deliberative democracy in practical ways, the health care community has an opportunity not only to fulfill its civic duty but also to apply the benefits of civic engagement to our most pressing health challenges.
About Rishi Manchanda
As a primary care doctor in south Los Angeles, Dr. Manchanda has shaped local and national programs to increase people’s abilities to participate in democracy and to advance health where it begins-where we live, learn, work, and play. He helped found and currently directs the Program in Social Medicine and Health Equity at St. John’s Well Child and Family Centers, a community health center network serving low-income working families in Los Angeles. Dr. Manchanda is the founder of Rx Democracy, one of the organizers of the South LA Health and Human Rights Initiative, is a member of the National Health Service Corps, and serves on the board of the National Physicians Alliance, a multi-specialty organization with 20,000 members. He has published articles on health and democracy in several venues, most recently in the National Civic Review.
Democracy Seminar Series
The Democracy Seminar Series brings distinguished speakers to Harvard Kennedy School for the academic year to address critical challenges facing democratic governance.