ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Trust in Public Health Practice

Two instances of trust deficit during the COVID-19 pandemic reveal that trust-building is a process based on past experiences of people, built through engagement with institutions and service providers over a longer period. First, it is in the context of accessing treatment in the midst of inadequate access to healthcare, and second, about vaccine hesitancy. There is a need to acknowledge the role of public trust for effective public health practice, especially when the science behind the programme is intellectually arduous for the common public.

Trust is one of the most crucial and also most overlooked values in public health practice. Scholars have identified the importance and necessity of trust for the success of public health action, but very little is explored on the factors influencing societal trust. Public trust is an essential attribute in immunisation campaigns and other large-scale public health programmes. Closely related but also very crucial is the trust necessary for effective medical practice. The close relationship between the two is because the public at large links health and well-being to hospitals and medical care even though there is a reciprocal relationship between public trust in health systems and people’s well-being and social order. Its unique nature in medicine owes from its inherent chara­cter of information asymmetry between the doctor, the expert, and the patient, non-expert.

Medical interactions in the last instance are about life and death decisions and become more complex in the case of newer epidemics like COVID-19, as treatment modalities and its outcomes are determined not only by the science of medicine but also by the institutional context where it is practised. The trust people develop towards the public and private sector hospitals is based on the past experience patients had with these hospitals. Scholars have argued that greater the level of trust, lesser will be the fear during crisis (Baker 2020). Thus, the present article attempts to examine and interpret the trust deficit during COVID-19 leading to an increased fear and how it contributes to vaccine hesitancy and other similar responses among the public when the underlying knowledge is intellectually arduous to engage with.

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Updated On : 16th Feb, 2022
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