Lessons learned: The reasons for trust

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We know that trust in US health agencies eroded during the COVID-19 pandemic. But little work has been done to explore why. So last year, researchers surveyed US adults about the reasons why they trusted—or didn’t trust–federal, state, and local public health agencies’ information during the pandemic. They recently reported their findings in Health Affairs (2023, DOI: 10.1377/hlthaff.2022.01204).

What they learned: The reasons for trust varied by agency level. Scientific expertise was more commonly reported as a reason for trust in federal public health agencies. But at the state and local levels, trust more often stemmed from the perception that public health agencies and their officials were working hard, being compassionate, and offering quality care at public health clinics. The most common reasons for lack of trust were beliefs that health recommendations were inconsistent and politically influenced.

➡️Idea to steal: The results suggest that federal, state, and local health agencies tailor their communications strategies to reflect these trust-drivers. For example, state and local health agencies could showcase how they are delivering care with compassion, whereas federal agencies could focus on communicating their scientific credibility.

What’s next: Exploring how these attitudes about trust vary by demographics.