Trust in health sector takes a hit in major markets, finds Edelman research

The healthcare sector has suffered a dip in public trust in major markets including France, India and the US, but Britons remain among the more trusting globally, according to the Edelman Health Trust Barometer.

The report is a breakout from the broader Edelman Trust Barometer, which was released at the start of the year and showed a decline in public trust in major institutions in the US and globally, as well as in the UK, although the latter market did see a rise in trust in traditional media.

Overall trust in healthcare declined by two per cent to 63 per cent.

Of the 28 markets surveyed, 11 (see right) do not trust the sector.

Kate Hawker, MD of health brands at Edelman UK, said: "The high price of medicines, which is always an issue, seems to have affected some markets much more than others; France is down significantly, and Germany remains low.

"The US has gone down by nine per cent - that is a market that has had quite a few pricing issues or scandals - the opioid [addiction] issue has I think mired not just pharma but trust in health more broadly; in hospitals, clinics, pharmacists."

Hawker pointed out that research for the report was done last year, before a number of combative statements made by President Trump about pricing and the need to tackle the opioids crisis in the US.

She also noted that there is a long-term trend for improved trust in some sub-sectors of health; hospitals and clinics score 72, up from 63 nine years ago, while health insurance firms' score has risen from 52 to 59. Pharma is static over the period, remaining at 54.

Meanwhile, trust in healthcare in the UK fell by two per cent - a figure not seen as statistically significant at a country level - leaving the UK as one of the more trusting markets globally. None of these trusting markets saw a rise of more than two per cent. India, one of the most trusting markets, saw its score drop.

In the UK, healthcare is the second most trusted sector after education, with scores of 68 and 71 respectively. Manufacturing (65) is in third. The least trusted sectors in the UK are energy (43), financial services (46) and automotive (49).

Only two sectors, financial services and education, saw a rise in trust in the UK market, and in both cases this was by a single percentage point.

"I think healthcare still performs quite well," says Hawker, pointing out that globally, the same pattern is repeated, with most sectors showing small declines in trust (see below).

Other findings in the broader Trust Barometer released at the start of the year point to the need for greater visibility of CEOs, in particular given a long-term downturn in trust in traditional media.

Hawker said: "Despite the relatively small dip in trust for the health sector and neutral position for pharma, there is no room for complacency. People tell us that trust-building is the first priority for the health industry and they want CEOs to take the lead and speak out on important issues beyond business."

Read more from Hawker on why "above-brand communications" is a key focus for her team, as well as various other UK healthcare comms leaders, in our sector analysis to mark the launch of the new PRWeek Top 150 report. 

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