Health is now everyone’s responsibility

For over 20 years, Edelman has surveyed public trust in government, media, business, and civil society. This year, the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Trust and Health looks at the trust people have in expert recommendations, and the expectations they have of institutions, brands, and CEOs to address their health. There are several significant findings for India, and the survey underscores that in today’s post-pandemic world, health is seen as everyone’s responsibility, not just that of health authorities or healthcare providers.

Health is more than physical health

When asked to define what being “healthy” means, Indians include four dimensions: mental health (91% of respondents), physical health (83%), social health (85%), and community liveability (81%). Overall, 67% say all four dimensions are part of their definition of being healthy, while only 1% say that being healthy is solely about physical health. This shows that Indians view good health in broad terms: it includes the ability to be active throughout life, free from illness, happy and well-supported, and to live in clean, safe and discrimination-free communities.

Indians’ broad definition of health also suggests that the institutions that deliver and contribute to good health now have greater and more multi-faceted responsibility to care for people. This includes institutions that lie beyond the traditional boundaries of the healthcare system, including government, media, business, and civil society.

Businesses play a key role in supporting health

A majority of Indians expect businesses across sectors—including technology, healthcare, food & beverage, retail, financial services, and fashion—to play a meaningful role in keeping them healthy. Most Indians (more than 80% for each action) believe that to improve people’s health, businesses must work to improve the health of their local communities, provide trustworthy health information, address health issues such as climate change and inequality, and convene stakeholders to improve healthcare.

Interestingly, 79% of Indians say they consider the impact a brand’s products and operations have on people’s health when deciding which brands to buy. This consideration is highest for middle and high-income groups. India scores higher on this parameter than developed markets such as the US (60%), UK (50%) and Japan (31%). This shows the Indian consumer is both sophisticated and particularly sensitive to health impact, and all businesses should take this expectation seriously.

My employer and my CEO play a crucial role in my health

Employers in India have an essential role beyond providing health benefits and insurance. When rating which institutions are doing well in keeping them healthy, most Indian employees included “my employer” (70%). This is on par with the Indian general population’s ratings of government and the Indian healthcare system, and performs higher than business, NGOs, and media. Indian employees also rate their employers highest (91%) regarding “doing what is right” when addressing health-related needs and concerns. Employees say employers are obligated to provide reliable health information to improve their employees’ health, especially at a time when misinformation is rife.

Alongside this, CEOs have a special role to play. Specifically, Indian employees say their CEOs must talk about the importance of mental health in the workplace—and they must walk the talk by respecting work and non-work boundaries, for e.g., by taking all of their paid leave. Both of these send powerful, direct signals to employees about companies’ prioritisation of people’s health.

Media must go beyond reporting on health

Indians score media relatively low when it comes to doing well in keeping us healthy (55%) and trust in media to do what is right in addressing health-related concerns and needs (77%). Businesses, NGOs, and government score higher on both parameters. But simultaneously, people trust the media to report accurate information about healthcare overall. At 71%, India scores higher on trust in media reporting on health than the US (46%), UK (37%) and France (34%). This implies that while the media has an important role in people’s health, Indians also expect more from the media.

What form could this evolving role of media take? The findings on trust in expert recommendations may offer some suggestions. Indians say that if health experts want them to change a behaviour, they must show the science behind the recommendation. Indians say it is important that health experts show that the data was collected from “people like me” (72%) and give them the opportunity to ask questions and voice concerns (75%). The media can help address these needs and facilitate better communication between health experts and the public through innovative, interactive formats centered around building dialogue and mutual understanding.

A responsibility and an opportunity

In the post-pandemic world, health is still top of mind for Indian consumers, who have an expansive definition of health and are motivated to take matters of health into their own hands. The Trust in Health report shows that all institutions have a role in health that goes well beyond traditional expectations, particularly for employers, businesses, and the media. If these institutions can meet the needs consumers are voicing, they will reap the benefits of increased trust and positive, sustainable impact.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Adhitya Veeraraghavan
As the Health Sector Head at Edelman India, Adhitya Veeraraghavan leads the delivery of Edelman’s offerings and expertise for strategic communication campaigns to health sector clients across pharmaceuticals, medical devices, consumer/OTC and digital health. He has previously worked at an in-house communications role at Pfizer in India and in business consulting at Deloitte. He holds a Masters in Accounting & Finance from the London School of Economics and a Masters in PR at Georgetown University, where he graduated with a Tropaia Award. Adhitya was recognized in the 40 Young Turks list by Reputation Today magazine in 2022

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