American Health Values Survey

Teenagers on a city street review paperwork.

New typology reflects diversity of values and beliefs toward health.

How we think about health—and the values, beliefs, experiences and attitudes that shape our thinking—affect how we approach our personal health challenges, as well as those that face society. Factors influencing health are equally complex—from access to quality care, to how individuals approach and manage health, to social determinants like access to housing and transportation.

 

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation worked with researchers from NORC at the University of Chicago to better understand the extent to which health is a shared value in the United States. 

The resulting American Health Values Survey examined insights from more than 10,000 adults around their values and beliefs related to health at both the individual and societal levels, including:

  • How health-conscious are we in our day-to-day living—from exercise to diet to getting preventive care?
  • How much do we value health equity—or the idea that all of us should have the basics to be as healthy as possible?
  • How much importance do we place on “social solidarity”—or the idea that the needs of others are as important as our own needs?
  • How do we view health care disparities—or how easy or difficult it may be for minority and low-income populations to receive quality health care?
  • How do social determinants such as education, housing, and income impact health?
  • Should the government or the private sector (or both) shoulder the responsibility for making our communities healthier places to live?
  • How do we view our “collective efficacy”—or our ability to work together to improve health in our communities?
  • How do we value civic engagement, or addressing health issues through charities, nonprofits, and voting?

The data from this large national survey were used to create a typology of the American public, reflecting a wide range and diversity of values and beliefs toward health. Six groups emerged from this analysis:

Size of Typology Groups

Size of Typology Groups

Health Egalitarians (23% of U.S. adults) do not place as much importance at the individual level on personal health as other Americans, and they are less likely to put health first in their daily lives. At the societal level, they are more likely to strongly embrace health equity, but less likely to believe that disparities for different populations exist, or that social determinants influence health. Health Egalitarians also believe government should generally be doing more to promote health, and are more likely than others to believe that building healthier communities is a high priority.

Equity Advocates (16%) are less likely to be highly engaged in personal health—whether through prevention, care seeking, or prayer/meditation. At the societal level, they are more likely to be strongly concerned about equality of opportunity, social solidarity, and health equity. Equity Advocates broadly agree about the existence of disparities, but are less likely to believe that social determinants influence health. They are highly trusting of science and the health care system, and more likely to believe that government generally should do more to promote health.

Committed Activists (18%) are very engaged in their personal health. The majority put health first in daily life, whether through disease prevention, seeking care, frequent prayer or meditation, or openness to alternative medicine. At the societal level, Committed Activists are more likely to believe that health care disparities exist and that the social determinants of health, as well as “non-social determinants” like stress, air and water quality, care access and genetic inheritance, play a role in influencing health. They overwhelmingly believe that health should be a top federal priority.

Self-Reliant Individualists (12%) are very likely to put health first in their daily lives. They are also the most likely of the groups to believe that ordinary people can decide for themselves “what is true” without the need for experts. At the societal level, Self-Reliant Individualists are much less likely to strongly believe in equality of opportunity to succeed, social solidarity, and health equity—or to believe race/ethnic and income-based disparities exist. They are less likely to believe that health should be a top priority for government, but are more likely to be civically engaged through charities or voting based on health issues.

Disinterested Skeptics (17%) do not place high importance on personal health, and are the least health-conscious of the segments. At the societal level, they are less likely to believe in equality of opportunity to succeed, that disparities exist, or that social and non-social determinants have a very strong influence on health. Disinterested Skeptics are much less likely to believe that government should do more to promote health at the federal or community level, and are less likely to be civically engaged.

Private-Sector Champions (14%) are more likely to be oriented toward prevention and seeking care at the personal level, and are much more likely to pray or meditate. They have the least trust in science and the health care system, and often place trust in the wisdom of ordinary people. At the societal level, Private-Sector Champions are less likely to believe that health care disparities exist, but overwhelmingly more likely to believe that social and non-social determinants are important influencers of health. They are the most likely to believe that the private sector should influence health in communities, while less likely to view a role for government.

For detailed profiles of each segment and detailed information on survey methodology, please review the full report and the related topline findings.

 

How Groups Vary on Two Critical Dimensions

How Groups Vary on Two Critical Dimensions