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Americans Rate Themselves And Their Communities As Healthy, Despite Research Showing The Opposite

PHILADELPHIA and WASHINGTON, March 6, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Despite an optimistic view of health in their communities, significant portions of the U.S. population are not convinced that communities provide sufficient access to key resources for good health, while 60 percent of Americans say online information is important to their health, a new survey from The Atlantic, in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), finds. 

The national survey, conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland from Jan. 12-20, 2013, found a strong majority of Americans place a premium on health care providers and environment as being primary drivers of their community's health. The phone survey of 1,004 individuals found that Americans—lower-income individuals, defined as those making less than $50,000 in household income, in particular (55 percent)—view doctors and hospitals as primarily responsible for ensuring good health in a community.

The Atlantic has partnered with GSK on a national initiative to examine the barriers and identify opportunities to build healthier communities in the U.S. The program, "A Conversation on Community Health" consisted of a series of events in U.S. cities to explore what it means, and what it takes, to be a healthy community. This poll builds on the learnings from those events by focusing on citizens' perspectives.

Americans perceive themselves to be healthyThe poll also found nine of 10 Americans consider themselves to be in good personal health and 81 percent said the health of people in their community is good. This finding is in stark contrast to recent research on the health status of America, including one-third of U.S. adults who are obese[1] and 26 million adults and children who have diabetes.[2] Additionally, while the majority of Americans believe their health status has not changed recently, 26 percent say their health has declined and cited worsening economic circumstances as a critical factor.

Low-income Americans lack access to community health resourcesWhile Americans believe a variety of community factors are very important to their health such as good air and water quality (87 percent), regular access to doctors and dentists (82 percent), healthy food choices (81 percent), and nearby hospitals and urgent care facilities (74 percent), the poll found significant unmet needs for the most underserved in this country with those who most value these community health resources having the least access to them.

Minorities[3] and urban, low-income Americans in particular are less convinced of their access to clean air and water, nearby hospitals, green spaces, and safe housing and healthy food choices. For example, 89 percent of low-income Americans cited good air and water quality as being very important to their health, yet only 58 percent say they have a great deal of access to these environmental and community services. Additionally, 84 percent said regular access to doctors and dentists was very important to their health but only 66 percent feel they have a great deal of access to them.

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