Washington, DC — United States of Care (USofCare) released a new guide today to help policymakers, advocates, and other key stakeholders humanize the health care debate and COVID-19 response. USofCare has undertaken an ongoing listening project to better understand people’s shared needs in response to COVID-19, combining public opinion analysis, survey research, and in-depth interviews throughout the country. Our new guide summarizes what we learned, advice on connecting with the public, as well as how to prioritize solutions.
We’ve consistently found that centering the conversation around shared needs and values opens new avenues for more people to be part of the conversation and the solution. In our discussions and several of our survey’s open-ended questions, responses were similar across a variety of demographics (Republican and Democrat, rural and urban, African American and white), including raw, sometimes heartbreaking, emotions as they describe their concerns. Our findings show many people share common experiences, even if we each have unique circumstances and different political viewpoints.
“Health care policy has historically been polarized and politicized. Our review of public opinion is that the country is quickly retreating to partisan corners. By elevating people’s shared values, we hope to humanize the health care debate. If we aren’t meeting people where they are, we will miss the moment to pave a path toward lasting positive change,” said Natalie Davis, Co-Founder and Senior Director for Public Engagement. “Throughout our research, we encountered people expressing waves of emotions – including significant levels of anxiety, uncertainty, frustration, hope, and gratitude – with deep concern about the health and financial well-being of themselves and their loved ones. While immediate fixes are needed, COVID-19 has also illuminated the public’s desire for long-term fixes, including a more reliable health care system that cares for everyone and supports essential workers. ”
Our most recent survey confirmed our focus on four critical shared needs that are emerging in response to the pandemic, including the desire for:
- A reliable health care system that is fully resourced to support essential workers and available when needed, both now and after the pandemic.
- A health care system that cares for everyone, including people who are vulnerable and those who were already struggling before the pandemic hit.
- Accurate information and clear recommendations on the virus and how to stay healthy and safe.
- Being able to provide for ourselves and our loved ones, especially as we are worried about the financial impact of the pandemic
We’ve already started putting these findings into action through the policy priorities we’ve recommended to federal and state policymakers.
Lead with values and emotion
People everywhere are concerned about protecting and providing for themselves and their loved ones. This unprecedented moment provides policymakers with the unique opportunity to ensure that our health care system is responsive to the pandemic while being accessible and affordable, now and into the future. Our findings show that centering the conversation around shared needs will open new avenues for more people to participate in the health care debate and the design of new solutions.
State and federal officials should show how they are listening to the public by proposing durable, people-centered policy solutions. These solutions should address not only the short-term challenges but also be designed to remove the long-standing barriers in our current health care system. People need to feel heard and that the health care system is there to support them. To be successful, policymakers must:
- Meet Americans where they are. The COVID-19 pandemic is exposing how the health care debate lacks a sense of humanity, making it feel detached from what people are experiencing. Leaders should connect with the American public on an emotionally resonant level and address feelings of anxiety and concern. We continue to see compassionate leadership from state and local leaders being well-received by the public.
- Address the interconnectivity between health and financial wellbeing which has been illuminated by the pandemic. Consider this connection of health care and personal finances when building and implementing solutions.
- Seek solutions to build a health care system that is fully resourced and ready to support essential workers, doctors, nurses, and the public.
- Center the people you’re trying to impact within the design of new policies. Continue to listen to constituents and consider formalizing the ways you gather input and work with community and business leaders.
Public Opinion Key Findings:
- There is a conflicting set of emotions, with Americans feeling concerned (53%), anxious (47%), uncertain (44%), frustrated (35%), and also hopeful (33%) and grateful (23%).
- The most pressing concerns for the majority of respondents are the health and safety of their loved ones (66%), followed closely by their health and safety (55%). The next most pressing concern is for “my own and my family members’ employment and financial situation,” (44%) except in the GOP groups, which stated that reopening the economy is of higher importance. Participants were least concerned with “getting back to my job” (around 20%).
- Americans are also finding hope amid the crisis—in religion, their families, and stories of people helping others.
- The pandemic illuminated deficiencies in our health care system; many respondents reflected on the fact that the US was caught unprepared to handle the pandemic, and our losses have been higher than those of other countries.
- Many expressed pride in the response from doctors and nurses.
In early March, we began conducting comprehensive assessments of available public opinion surveys from a variety of pollsters, including Kaiser Family Foundation, Gallup, Pew, and others. We also conducted in-depth interviews with members of the public between April 3, 2020, and May 1, 2020. Our national survey was conducted May 1-3, 2020, and carried a confidence interval of 90%, with a margin of error between 2-4%. It included a sample size of 2,156 respondents. It has a margin of error between 2-4%.