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Survey: Americans Rate Themselves as Healthy, Despite Research Showing the Opposite

Those who most want community health resources have least access to them (Mar. 6)

Despite an optimistic view of health in their communities, significant portions of the U.S. population are not convinced that communities provide sufficient access to key resources for good health, while 60% of Americans say online information is important to their health, according to a new survey from The Atlantic, in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline.

The national survey, conducted January 12–20, 2013, found that most Americans place a premium on health care providers and the environment as being primary drivers of their community’s health. The phone survey of 1,004 individuals found that Americans — in particular, lower-income individuals, defined as those making less than $50,000 in household income — view physicians and hospitals as primarily responsible for ensuring good health in a community.

The poll also found that nine out of 10 Americans consider themselves to be in good personal health, and 81% said that the health of people in their community is good. This finding is in stark contrast to recent research on the health status of America, including one-third of U.S. adults who are obese and 26 million adults and children who have diabetes. Moreover, while most Americans believe their health status has not changed recently, 26% said their health has declined and cited worsening economic circumstances as a critical factor.

Although Americans believe a variety of community factors — such as good air and water quality (87%), regular access to physicians and dentists (82%), healthy food choices (81%), and nearby hospitals and urgent care facilities (74%) — are important to their health, the poll found significant unmet needs for the most underserved in this country, with those who most value these community health resources having the least access to them.

Minorities and urban, low-income Americans, in particular, are less convinced of their access to clean air and water, nearby hospitals, green spaces, and safe housing and healthy food choices. For example, 89% of low-income Americans cited good air and water quality as being very important to their health, and yet only 58% said they had a great deal of access to these environmental and community services. Further, 84% said regular access to physicians and dentists was very important to their health, but only 66% felt they had a great deal of access to them.

Additional survey findings include:

  • More than 1 in 3 young Americans (those under the age of 30 years) are willing to have primarily online interaction with physicians. Young people, Hispanics, and upper-income Americans are most open to communicating with their physicians mainly through text messages or e-mails.
  • Young people and Hispanics are eager to use web applications to help improve their health.
  • Forty percent of Americans who use online resources self-diagnose.
  • Thirty-two percent of young Americans who use online health resources act on the information they find without consulting a medical professional.
  • A significant proportion of young people use health Web sites for purposes that would otherwise require physician visits.

Source: GlaxoSmithKline; March 6, 2013.

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