PUBLIC HEALTH: Public Strongly In Favor, Underinformed
Harris Poll results out today show a two-to-one plurality of Americans support making funding for prevention and health promotion a higher priority than funding for disease treatment. Large majorities believe that "most public health activities -- such as health promotion and disease prevention, immunization, reducing environmental risks and scientific research into the causes and prevention of disease are seen by almost everyone as extremely important -- whether or not they are thought of as 'public health.'" Interestingly, a 1996 Harris poll showed most Americans do not know what "public health" means. The following percentages of the public classify the following spending priorities "very important:"
- 91%: Preventing spread of infectious diseases (tuberculosis, measles, flu and AIDS);
- 88%: Conducting medical research into the causes and prevention of diseases -- up 6% (the largest change) from 1996;
- 87%: Inoculating the public against disease;
- 86%: Guarding against exposure to unsafe water, air or waste;
- 68%: Encouraging healthy lifestyles, diet and non-smoking.