Society Insights

Healthcare for the public good

The Covid-19 pandemic has enhanced the trust of citizens in national healthcare systems, which are now called to face major challenges in the future

The trend

Time called it “the all-time worst” - and who can doubt that 2020 will go down in history as the year of Covid-19 and the global healthcare emergency? The catastrophic consequences have impacted societies, ravaged economies, and skewed geopolitical dynamics – and we haven’t even felt the full effects yet.


The world over, the pandemic has laid bare the fragilities of many healthcare systems and the merits of few. The models which over time have been held up has standards of excellence (such as in Germany, South Korea, New Zealand, and Australia) have turned out to be impossible to replicate in contexts that are less economically and technologically advanced, or years behind in terms of healthcare organization, control and planning.


Despite the deep divides among different countries, what has emerged as a characteristic trait of national healthcare systems is resilience, that is, the capacity to adapt to an unexpected shock. Beyond permitting a large portion of the world’s population to have access to health care and treatment, this reality has also enhanced the level of trust in public institutions, which is essential for the resilience of society in an emergency situation like the one we are facing.


With the explosion of the coronavirus pandemic, and perhaps even because of this crisis, far more people have a positive opinion of the quality of their home country’s healthcare system. To explore this topic, IPSOS compiled a recent report Global Health Service Monitor 2020 based on a study conducted on over 20,000 people from 27 countries (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Turkey, and the US). Findings show that globally, 50% of interviewees think the quality of the healthcare services they’ve received is good or very good, a number that is five percentage points higher than the previous figure reported in 2018. (This includes medical treatment, hospital services, diagnostic tests and drug treatments for various medical problems.)


Some takeaways

Predictably, the coronavirus represents the biggest healthcare problem worldwide. This is the opinion of 72% of interviewees, with the highest numbers in the population segment aged 50 to 75 and in Latin American countries, with Peru and Brazil topping the list. (Italy is positioned in the middle of the ranking, in line with global data.)


Other urgent healthcare issues include cancer, mental health, stress, obesity and diabetes, which already took the top five positions in the 2018 IPSOS study.


Compared with other areas of the world, in Europe almost half the people interviewed see cancer a major health issue. (Italy ranked 4th with 53%.) Instead the problem of mental health seems to worry the youngest population segment (31% are under 35, versus 26% of those aged 35 to 49, and 21% of those 50 to 74) and women (31% vs 22% of men). At a global level, obesity is a concern for only 18% of the population, a drop of 18 points from 2018, with the highest figures in Mexico (52%), Chile (36%) and the UK (27%). Stress is considered a big problem in South Korean, Japan and Sweden. In this case too, younger people (under 35s and from 35 to 49) are the ones who list stress as a top healthcare challenge.


As we mentioned above, half of survey participants from 27 countries say they are satisfied with the quality of their healthcare system. The most satisfied are the Australians, the Dutch, and the British, while the figure is 42% for Italians, up 9% over 2018. As for future expectations, over a third of survey participants are convinced that the quality of the healthcare system in their home country will improve. And as far as current levels of trust, half of all respondents say they trust their healthcare systems to provide the best medical treatment (+9% compared to 2018). Both these figures reflect the importance and trust citizens place in their national healthcare systems.


In any case, people are worried about high costs, and the risk that not all social classes get equal access to healthcare. Of all interviewees, 59% believe that many can’t afford essential healthcare costs (the percentage for Italy consistently tracks at 53%), while only 37% believe that the healthcare system of their home country provides the same standard of care, compared with 38% who hold the opposite view. (Among Italians, these figures are 36% and 32% respectively). The global majority (55%) also says that the healthcare system of their country is overstretched; the countries heading this ranking are the UK, Hungary and Sweden.


In the near future, healthcare systems will have to face three serious challenges: cutting down on wait times (according to 40% of respondents; Italy ranks third here with 60%), understaffing (39%) and the high costs of medical treatment (31%).


The study also reveals highly significant numbers on compulsory vaccination against serious infectious diseases. At a global level, 64% of interviewees say that vaccinations should be mandatory. Interesting to note, however, is that fact that no European country is among the top 10 in this ranking: Italy holds steady at number 55 (with 18% against), Germany at 54 (21% against), the Netherlands at 53 (27% against), and France at 50 (21% against).


Healthcare for the public good - Torbica

Healthcare for the public good - Fregosi