PUBLIC OPINION — A GAME CHANGER FOR HEALTH SYSTEMS FINANCING?
The Ebola crisis in West Africa thrust
health systems into the spotlight. But spotlights have a tendency to move
quickly, from one front-page priority to the next.
Patients and medical staff at the San Juan de Dios Hospital in Guatemala.
opinion has a big role to play in focusing attention. Strengthening health
systems and preventing future epidemics are goals more likely to rise on the
political agenda when citizens in donor countries think they are important. A
new poll commissioned by theWorld Bank suggests that’s exactly
what people think.
has faded from the headlines, and many within the global health community
feared public support for epidemic prevention would decline alongside infection
statistics. Rarely has a disease ever shed such clear light on the systemic
factors of a health disaster, and global health professionals seized the
opportunity to press for health systems investment in under-resourced
as has been the case with many outbreaks in history, success in combating
crisis can be its own worst enemy. The crisis ends, and so does the attention
to it — but maybe not this time.
to the World Bank-commissioned poll carried out last month by the consulting
firm Greenberg Quinian Rosner Research in France, Germany, Japan, the United
Kingdom and the United States, the majority of respondents support investments
in health systems in developing countries in order to prevent the spread of
poll surveyed 4,000 people across the five donor countries. It included
participants from the general public as well as so-called opinion elites —
those with university degrees who closely follow global news.
percent of elites and 77 percent of total participants felt investments in
clinics and medical personnel in developing countries help prevent the spread
of epidemics to their own countries. Two-thirds of elites and 58 percent of
total participants felt that in order to protect their countries from future
pandemics, their governments need to invest in developing countries. And 76
percent of elites and 69 percent of total participants said investing in health
care in developing countries saves the world money by containing or preventing
find these findings extremely important,” Tim Evans, senior director for the
Health, Nutrition, and Population Global Practice at the World Bank, told
explained that understanding how the public perceives infectious disease threats
is critical when approaching policymakers about financing.
think these results suggest the public would support policymakers — and those
who make decisions on finances — to have a more continuous, focused look at
these episodic events,” he said.
addition to suggesting public opinion remains favorable to health systems
strengthening, the poll showed that respondents are concerned about future
disease outbreaks and believe their own countries and the international
community at large is not well-prepared enough to respond.
a list of 10 global concerns, “global health and epidemics” ranked behind only
“terrorism” and “global climate change.”
survey shows that the public sees global infectious disease outbreaks as a
serious threat, and they want leaders to take action to prepare for the next
potentially deadly epidemic,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said.
attention shifts toward the sustainable development goals — and how the
international community can finance their implementation — public opinion could
prove a valuable piece of supporting evidence to wield. For the time being,
health systems strengthening continues to pass the popularity test.