This survey examines trust in key groups in health and health care, ratings of the job performance of public health agencies, trust in information from public health departments, understanding of different health and social issues that fall within the purview of public health departments, and public views on the biggest health problems facing the nation.
Most Americans are now familiar with the term “public health” and assign public health agencies broad responsibility over many issues, including chronic and infectious disease prevention, mental health, health care, and substance abuse.
This survey finds that the public broadly believes that the activities of public health agencies are important to the health of the United States and supports substantial increases in spending on public health programs, but has serious concerns about how the system functions now. The public lacks the high level of trust in key public health institutions necessary to address today’s and future challenges.
Despite a broad awareness and recognition for the important role public health agencies play in protecting and promoting the health of the general public and vulnerable groups, this survey also shows the American public has higher trust in health care professionals than public health institutions and agencies and a substantial minority of the public does not trust health information shared by their state and local public health departments.
These findings raise notable concerns for leaders working to shape the future of the United States public health system in the post-COVID-19 era of the 21st century. If this important field is to move ahead, it has to address the concerns of lack of trust and inadequate performance ratings for major public health institutions and agencies.
COVID-19 has laid bare the cracks and inequities baked into all of the systems that impact health in the United States, particularly public health institutions. As the country prepares to emerge from the pandemic, substantial public health funding is necessary to ensure we are prepared for the next emergency. In order for leaders to move forward in shaping the future of the U.S. public health system, the public’s lack of trust must be addressed. The field must also use this moment to address the structural discrimination within the system and ensure that all of our communities are protected.
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