Which of the findings of the PhRMA National Health Survey was most surprising to you, and why?

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Which of the findings of the PhRMA National Health Survey was most surprising to you, and why?

When asked about the link between vaccines and autism, an alarming 25% of Americans and 30% of parents believe that vaccines can cause autism in young children, according to our Second Annual National Health Survey for PhRMA. This is striking in that it comes despite reputable authorities like the CDC and the Mayo Clinic clearly stating that there is no link between vaccines and autism.

Additionally, gluten-free diets are all the rage these days and nearly two in three (65%) Americans believe that many people are sensitive to gluten, even if they don’t have Celiac disease.  Recent research, however, contradicts this claim.

At the same time, it’s clear that Americans want to know more about their health. More than half (58%) say they are paying more attention to their health now than they were a few years ago, and 51% of Americans say that staying informed about health developments, guidelines and recommendations is a big priority for them. The problem is that these intentions aren’t consistently translating into reality.  Those who say that staying informed is a big priority to them are no more likely than those who care less about being informed to know health myths from facts.

With more and more of us turning to the Internet when we have questions about our health or physical symptoms—and 57% of the Americans we surveyed say this is something they commonly do—the challenge becomes figuring out what’s valid and trustworthy. When only one-third of us can say that it’s easy to find accurate and complete information about health, it’s more crucial than ever for doctors, medical organizations and scientists to talk to Americans in a way that’s easy for anyone to understand, while providing access to accurate and valuable health resources.  

Geoffrey Garin
President, Hart Research Associates

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Geoffrey Garin
President, Hart Research Associates

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Geoffrey Garin has been the president of Hart Research Associates since 1984. In this capacity, Mr. Garin has undertaken landmark policy and communications research for many of the nation’s leading foundations, educational institutions and progressive organizations. Democrats at the national and state levels have relied on Mr. Garin to direct their polling and develop winning strategies for their campaigns. Mr. Garin is a graduate of Harvard College.  

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Which of the findings of the PhRMA National Health Survey was most surprising to you, and why?

The Second Annual National Health Survey by PhRMA provides some valuable insights into what people are thinking – and doing – about their health.  One of the key findings is that over half of Americans, including 55% of men, are paying more attention to their health than they were a few years ago.  This is an encouraging trend that reflects greater general health awareness in recent years. 

There are many factors that may be contributing to this increasing awareness, particularly among men.  First, large public health campaigns such as Men's Health Month in June, celebrated across the country, have highlighted the need for men to be more educated and proactive about their health.

At the same time, many healthcare companies have been expanding their consumer base to more actively reach men through everything from nutritional supplements to skin care products.  This has the benefit of getting men – traditionally a harder audience to reach with health information – to start thinking more about how well they are taking care of themselves. 

Additionally, the large amount of public attention that has been drawn to the Affordable Care Act and the requirement to get insurance has pushed a lot of men (who are less likely to be insured than their female counterparts) to think more about healthcare.  As we gradually reduce the uninsured rate, the next big challenge becomes making sure that both men and women are educated consumers who know how to utilize the healthcare system effectively.

This leads us to another interesting finding from the survey.  Only 58% of respondents reported having raised any questions or concerns to their healthcare provider in the past year, and among these only 28% discussed preventive health strategies.  If we’re going to move to a health system that focuses more on promoting wellness than treating illness, and one that ultimately is going to save people and the nation money, we’re going to have to make prevention a top priority. 

Prevention can include everything from healthy eating habits and exercise to routine (and patient-specific) tests.  Healthcare providers can help their patients get in the right habits and give them the appropriate tests to make sure they are staying on top of their health and avoiding potentially debilitating and costly diseases down the road. 

There are many tools already available at little or no cost to patients.  Most private health plans are now required to offer a variety of preventive services with no cost sharing.  This includes a general package of preventive services such as blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, as well as certain immunizations.   There is also a set of preventive health services for women.  Men’s Health Network has proposed a similar package for men

For those newly enrolling in Medicare, the Welcome to Medicare preventive visit provides a baseline for future care, including an assessment of additional screenings that may be needed for an individual.  Similarly, Men’s Health Network and its partners have proposed that states adopt a Welcome to Medicaid preventive visit that would include basic screenings and a health assessment for those newly enrolled in the program. 

This survey highlights some encouraging trends in health awareness but also draws attention to some significant gaps.  It’s a useful check-in for patient organizations, providers and the public sector regarding the need to get accurate and complete health information to consumers in the way they are most likely to see and use it.  

Brandon Leonard
Director of Strategic Initiatives, Men's Health Network

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Brandon Leonard
Director of Strategic Initiatives, Men's Health Network

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Men's Health Network (MHN) is a national non-profit organization whose mission is to reach men, boys, and their families where they live, work, play, and pray with health awareness messages and tools, screening programs, educational materials, advocacy opportunities, and patient navigation.  For more information, please visit www.menshealthnetwork.org.

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