RWJF Poll Finds Public Supports Substantial Increase in Spending on U.S. Public Health Programs

According to a poll conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, a large majority of the public favors substantially increasing federal spending on improving the nation’s public health programs. A similar majority believes the activities of public health agencies in the U.S. are extremely or very important to the health of the United States.

The poll, “The Public’s Perspective on the United States Public Health System,” reported that when it comes to trust, the public is more trusting of health workers than U.S public health institutions and agencies. Public trust was highest in nurses (71 percent), health workers they know (70 percent), and doctors (67 percent). The lowest levels of trust came from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (52 percent), state health departments (41 percent), and local health departments (41 percent), the National Institute of Health (37 percent), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (37 percent).

Additionally, the poll’s survey responses found only about one-third of adults (34 percent) gave positive ratings on the nation’s system from protecting the public from health threats and preventing illnesses. However, the research found that the public’s trust in the nation’s medical system increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, with half of the adults giving it a positive rating in 2020.

Co-Director of the survey Richard L. Menschel, Professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, highlighted the critical importance of increasing public trust in public health institution and agencies during this time. Menschel also noted that it is a moment for public health to commit to addressing the systemic challenges to improve health and well-being, which includes structural racism and discrimination.

The full public health poll can be accessed here.