Poll shows most Americans praised how local, state health departments responded to COVID-19

A new poll shows most Americans support increased funding for public health, suggesting the pandemic has brought a new perspective on the issue.

The poll was taken during February and March, by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The findings were mixed, with skepticism around the federal government entities like the CDC and FDA, but support for the work of public health.

"It's only when we have an outbreak like this do people realize that public health is there protecting them every day," said Dr. Alonzo Plough, who is chief science officer for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Through the coronavirus pandemic, public health's response has won praise.

More than 70% of those polled had high praise for how public health departments responded to COVID-19.

But federal agencies - the Centers for Disease Control, Food and Drug Administration, and National Institutes of Health – didn’t get the same high marks.

Hospital bed

FILE - Stock image of an empty hospital bed.  (FOX TV Stations)

"The messages came from lots of different places and I think it’s fair to say parts of the pandemic got a little politicized, and I think that doesn’t help us in building trust," Dr. Plough added.

County and state health departments, the front line against disease locally, should have increased funding, said some 72% who answered the telephone poll.

"These things that address the health of an entire community are really what's had some of the most dramatic impacts in terms of improving health," Dallas County Health Director Dr. Philip Huang said.

Dr. Huang said public health goes beyond exotic diseases that show up, it’s battling chronic diseases and socio economic conditions that impact health disproportionately.

"Some of the zip codes in South Dallas, Southeast Dallas, they have a 23-year lower life expectancy than some of these other more affluent zip codes in Dallas," he explained.

State senators sent a bill to representatives that’s 8% less in funding for health and human services than what's in the current budget.

"I'm hoping we will see an increase in spending for health and human services in the state of Texas, given the fact that Texas continues to lag behind as it relates to spending," said State Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas)

"These investments need to be made so we can address the public health issue in the appropriate ways," Dr. Huang said.

Dr. Huang said he would like to see spending increase so there could better integration of technology, and that there could be better education in community about illnesses, like hypertension and diabetes, which don't get the headlines of a novel coronavirus.