Campaign Raises Public Awareness of Global Infectious Diseases

Through a national baseline survey, the Global Health Council, White River Junction, Vt., established a 1999 level of awareness among the American public of the risks posed to U.S. health by global infectious diseases and conducted a follow-up campaign to educate the public about these diseases.

Infectious diseases pose a growing danger globally and could have a substantial impact on U.S. public health and national security.

Key Results

  • Global Health issued an executive summary of survey findings to the media on June 16, 1999. Among the findings of the survey were:

    • About half (48 percent) of the American public knows someone who has had tuberculosis, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS or malaria.
    • Global infectious diseases are a serious, but not an immediate, concern for Americans.
    • Most Americans have not yet made the connection between global infectious diseases and national security, despite their awareness and concern about such diseases.
  • Building upon the findings of the national survey, infectious disease consultants Richard Waddell, MD, of Dartmouth Medical School and Kathy Parsonnet, MS, MPH, formerly of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, prepared a plan for a three-year marketing campaign to raise Americans' awareness of global infectious disease issues.

  • Global Health Council staff convened 11 Local-Global Health Forums in cities across the nation between November 2000 and June 2003, bringing together local, national and international infectious disease experts to educate and mobilize grassroots networks engaged in global infectious disease concerns.

Key Findings

  • Lake Snell Perry & Associates, Washington, reported findings from a final survey of the American public, taken in 2003 after the media campaign, in a report, Public Opinion About the Spread of Global Infectious Diseases and the SARS Outbreak, to the Global Health Council. Key findings include:

    • Three-quarters (75%) of Americans consider the spread of global infectious diseases to be a very important problem facing the world. This is an increase from 1999 when 70 percent of Americans felt similarly.
    • Most Americans are aware of factors—such as poor public health systems in some countries, lack of hand washing and global air travel—that contribute to the spread of infectious diseases.