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Kaiser Family Foundation Polls Finds Strong Support for WASH Programs

By Jane Tingley (Intern, IHC)
November 13, 2013

Last week, The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) released the results their 2013 Survey of Americans on the U.S. Role in Global Health, this is the fifth in a survey series designed, conducted, and analyzed by the KFF and is intended to highlight the American public attitudes, knowledge, and perceptions on the U.S. role in global health.  This survey explores topics including U.S. aid’s ability to promote self-sufficiency in developing countries, aid allocation in light of the federal budget deficit, and sources of information on global health issues.

Despite continued concerns over the federal budget and national debt, the basic level of support of U.S. spending on efforts to improve global health in developing countries has remained the same in recent years.  While the majority of Americans reported that fighting terrorism, protecting human rights, and helping out in areas affected by natural disasters were top priorities, improving health in developing countries remains a priority they believe in. When asked about various health priorities, the survey found that the top health priority was improving access to clean water; with 64% of Americans reporting it is one of the top priorities, and 93% supporting U.S. investment in WASH activities in developing countries.

When it came to U.S. spending on global health, there were some partisan differences, but the majority of Americans felt that the U.S. spends too little or just the right amount on global health efforts.  However, the survey found continued misconceptions about how U.S. foreign aid is allocated and its percentage of the overall federal budget.  Currently, foreign aid makes up about 1 percent of the federal budget, but on average, Americans think foreign aid makes up about 28 percent.  Further, there were widespread misconceptions about how U.S. foreign aid is spent, with four in ten respondents believing that foreign aid is given directly to the governments of developing countries for them to spend where they see fit, rather than the true of practice of U.S. aid being allocated directly to specific program areas.

In some contradiction to their feelings of priority, the study also found that Americans don’t tend to view improving health in developing countries as being a good value, with two thirds of respondents not believing that it improves the developing countries’ self-sufficiency. The survey found decreased attention and visibility of global health issues in the news media, with over half of public reporting hearing “only a little” or “nothing at all” about U.S. government efforts to improve health in developing countries.  Overall, Americans reported that they would like to hear more in traditional news sources of global health in developing countries.

Click here to read an overview of the survey results, and here for the specific questions asked of survey respondents.

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