Courtney Gray Haupt / April 18, 2023
The world we’re living in is moving through a significant shift, one that is propelled by intense polarization, continued misinformation, the impact of climate change and a mental health crisis that is likely far from reaching its peak. Yet, as we collectively face these challenges, we see an opportunity for healthcare—and health organizations—to move to the forefront of solutions.
When I first read through the findings coming out of our 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Trust and Health, I was immediately struck by how clearly the public sees the impact social and environmental issues have on their mental and physical health. I thought of the mental impact individuals likely feel as wildfires creep closely toward their homes or the stress parents or caregivers may feel as economic warnings continue to top media headlines. The realities of the world today mean health has become multifaceted, and those who can bring solutions forward have a responsibility to see health beyond purely the physical.
Last year, our 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Trust and Health uncovered a correlation between trust and personal health: those who reported more trust in the health ecosystem were more likely to take preventative care measures. This year, the data uncovered that while no core institution is trusted when it comes to addressing health, there are high expectations of all institutions to play a role in ensuring people are healthy – and we found people have a broad definition of what that means.
Globally, our 2023 survey shows that 66% of people believe that “being healthy” is defined by four elements: their physical and mental wellbeing, social health and community livability. Strikingly, more people reported thinking about their mental health (91%) than their physical health (88%) when asked how they define being healthy. Of the top societal factors negatively impacting their health (across physical, mental, social, and community health), respondents put inflation at the highest (77%), followed by the past several years of pandemic restrictions at 75%, lack of trust and pollution (67% each), polarization (66%), climate change (65%), burnout and misinformation (64% each). The definition of what it means to be healthy, and the challenges to achieving this, is seen also through the lens of financial, environmental and emotional factors – well beyond the physical.
Building and sustaining trust is key to enabling better health across all four dimensions. With an expansive definition of health comes high expectations from stakeholders—expectations that require healthcare companies, organizations and leaders to work towards strategies that help patients and communities thrive in totality.
The welcome news is that there are clear steps organizations can take to strengthen trust and deliver change through communications and actions that reflect this evolved understanding of health.
Courtney Gray-Haupt is US Health Sector Chair.