Confidence, Trust In Science, Government Vital To Health Care

Project Syndicate: The Most Important Health-Care Tool Is Trust
Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust

“…According to the Wellcome Global Monitor, the largest-ever survey of public attitudes toward science and health, … more than 70% of survey participants reported that they trust scientists, doctors, and nurses. But their responses also indicate that there is no room for complacency. Half of the … respondents … reported that they know little or nothing about science, and almost one in five don’t think that it benefits them personally. This lack of engagement with science raises serious — even life-threatening — risks. … Education undoubtedly plays a role in shaping attitudes toward vaccines, but so do myriad personal, social, religious, and cultural factors — and, most fundamentally, trust. In fact, trust in science and health care is linked to trust in government and other national institutions. When confidence in one is lost, confidence in the rest tends to suffer as well. And when faith in all of these spheres is depleted, the consequences are typically disastrous. … No matter how exciting the treatment, how clever the delivery method, or how robust the science, there will be no impact unless the local community is open to it. … [A]s the world faces profound science-related challenges — from climate change to antimicrobial resistance — policymakers, practitioners, and civic leaders would do well to learn as much as possible from the Wellcome Global Monitor’s unprecedented, unique, and invaluable data” (7/23).