Al Quinlan, president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research has a post up at gqrr.com on their new survey (PDF here), which reveals overwhelming public support for investing in illness prevention as a leading priority of health care reform. Among the findings of the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner/Public Opinion Strategies bi-partisan report, which was commissioned by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation:
When we asked people whether or not we should invest more in prevention , a big majority (76 percent) said yes, against just 16 percent who said no. This is truly an overwhelming level of support for any initiative—it’s rare to get three-quarters of the country to agree on anything these days (much less on something that involves spending more money)—and it underscores the importance Americans place on prevention as part of their health care and their lives.
Now for those of you who would ask if it is just certain parts of the population who support this, our answer would be, “No.” At least 65 percent of every demographic subgroup supports increasing our investment in prevention. From coast to coast (79 percent in the Northeast, 78 percent in the South, 76 percent in the West, and 72 percent in the Midwest) and across the political spectrum (86 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of Republicans, and 70 percent of Independents), people believe we should invest more in prevention. Even two-thirds of the least healthy among us want a greater investment in prevention.
The importance the country places on prevention represents a real change in attitudes toward health in this country over the past couple decades. In 1987, 45 percent of the country believed we should be giving more emphasis to prevention (11 percent wanted more emphasis on treatment). Today, 59 percent say we need more emphasis on prevention, an increase of 14 percentage points in the prevention column (a real shift, albeit occurring over 20 years).
And the public views prevention as a highly cost-effective investment, as Quinlan notes:
No good discussion of any type of program would be complete without discussing the always-burning question—what about the costs? Does the cost associated with investing in prevention dampen support for it? It doesn’t appear to. By a wide margin (77 – 16 percent), Americans believe that prevention will save us money, rather than cost us money. But saving money isn’t the real reason they want more prevention—health is. Seventy-two percent say that “investing in prevention is worth it even if it doesn’t save money, because it will prevent disease and save lives,” while only 20 percent feel that investing in prevention is not worth it if it doesn’t save money. When it comes to prevention, it’s less about cost and more about reducing disease, keeping people healthy, and improving quality of life.
When it comes to building a consensus in support of health care reform, it appears that investing in prevention as a central priority may be the focus that can unite Americans.