Americans’ Health Priorities During the COVID-19 Pandemic



This study aimed to examine how Americans’ opinions of the seriousness of various health-related problems have changed over time and to quantify the public’s preferences for research prioritization.


We conducted a survey that asked respondents to rate the seriousness of 80 health-related problems on a 4-point Likert scale (“very serious problem,” “somewhat serious problem,” “not too serious of a problem,” or “not a problem at all”). Results were compared with past surveys from 2001 and 2013 that examined the same set of health-related problems (with the exception of COVID-19). The survey also included best-worst scaling questions that asked respondents to select, from 20 health problems, those they considered most and least important for research funding. Respondents were recruited from the KnowledgePanel, a nationally representative sample of American households.


A total of 768 adults completed the survey between September 3, 2020, and September 14, 2020. The health-related problems that Americans consider to be “very serious” generally align with the leading causes of death and noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and mental health; nevertheless, several social determinants of health are also identified. COVID-19 was an unsurprising top priority, whereas cancer remains the highest and a persistent priority for research funding.


Americans consider a diverse set of health-related problems to be “very serious,” with recognition of social determinants of health rising. Our findings offer guidance as to the disease areas for which the public would value further public and private investment in treatment innovations.


Joseph Cook Melissa Pittaoulis Kim Gilchrist Justine Alderfer Molly Sapia

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