See if you can correctly complete these sentences based on findings from the recently published survey, Wellcome Global Monitor:
  • People most trust ___________ to provide them with medical or health advice.
  • Globally, _____ people agree that vaccines are safe, effective and important.
  • About ___ % of people believe that the work scientists do benefits people like them.

In the first global study of attitudes toward science and health, the Wellcome Global Monitor surveyed more than 140,000 people in more than 140 countries to better understand global trust in science, scientists and health information, interest in science and health topics, the benefits of science, the compatibility of religion and science, and attitudes about vaccines. Data were collected between April and December 2018.

According to the findings, the sentences should read:

  • People most trust a doctor or nurse to provide them with medical or health advice.
  • Globally, most people agree that vaccines are safe, effective and important.
  • About 70% of people, globally, believe that the work scientists do benefits people like them.

Read on for more details about these findings.

People most trust a doctor or nurse to provide them with medical or health advice.

When asked to choose who they most trust to give them medical or health advice, about 73% of people chose a doctor or nurse. Family and friends was the second most popular choice, at about 14%. Other choices, including a religious leader, famous person, traditional healer, none of these, or no response/don’t know, all received 2% or 3% of the response.

The North American region respondents, which included those from the United States and Canada, chose “a doctor or nurse” 88% of the time; however, 5% chose a traditional healer. Other choices were chosen less than 5% of the time.

When asked about medical advice from healthcare providers or government officials, globally, 84% trusted healthcare providers versus 76%, government officials. In the North American region, the responses were 92% and 61%, respectively.

Globally, most people agree that vaccines are safe, effective and important.

In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) deemed vaccine hesitancy as a top 10 global health threat. Concerns around vaccines differ in their nature and intensity in various regions of the world; however, in the Wellcome survey, respondents strongly or somewhat agreed that vaccines are important (92%), effective (84%) and safe (79%). Additionally, more than 9 in 10 respondents reported that one or more of their children had received a vaccine.

Regional data were more variable. In the North American region, 87% agreed to importance, 83% to effectiveness, and 72% to safety. Eastern European respondents (from Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine) gave the lowest importance (80%), effectiveness (65%), and safety (50%) ratings.

About 70% of people globally believe that the work scientists do benefits people like them.

While 69% of all respondents believed that scientists’ efforts benefit them, responses to this question also varied, ranging from only about 49% in North Africa to 84% in Australia and New Zealand. About 83% of North American respondents agreed that scientific endeavors benefit them.

When researchers looked at whether people believed that scientists’ efforts benefited them personally or “most, some or few” people in their country, they identified four groups of respondents:

  • Enthusiasts: Those who believed in both personal and country-level benefits (38%).
  • The Included: Those who believed they benefit, but society did not benefit as much (29%).
  • The Excluded: Those who believed society benefited, but they personally did not (11%).
  • Skeptics: Those who believed that neither they personally nor society at large benefited from scientific endeavors (8%).

A few more findings

  • Only about 54% of respondents had some form of internet access. The range was from 24% of Eastern Africa respondents (Burundi, Comoros, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) to 93% in Australia and New Zealand. About 91% of North American respondents reported having access to the internet.
  • About 41% of respondents reported seeking health information in the 30 days before completing the survey, and 28% reported seeking science information in the same period. When evaluated in light of internet access, 28% of people without internet access sought medical information compared with 52% who did. Similarly, 14% sought science information despite a lack of internet access, compared with 40% who did.
  • About 62% of people reported being interested in learning more about science.
  • More than 8 of every 10 respondents agreed that the study of disease is part of science.
  • People from upper-middle or high-income countries who reported being less secure financially had the least confidence in hospitals and health clinics.
  • Similarly, those in high-income countries who reported struggling financially were also more likely to be skeptical about the benefits of science.
  • Those who reported being religious indicated that if science disagreed with their religious beliefs, 55% would side with their religion, 29% with science, and 13% of respondents said it would depend on the issue.

What does this mean for practicing healthcare providers?

While this report shows some areas for concern, it also has some important, and tangible, findings for those on the frontlines:

  • People trust their own healthcare providers for health information; this trust should be valued, protected and remembered when approaching conversations with patients and parents.
  • Eight or 9 of every 10 people throughout the world believe that vaccines are important, effective and safe — and report at least one of their children having received one or more vaccines. Parents may be reassured by this type of information because it indicates that even if concerned about vaccine safety, most parents are vaccinating their children.
  • Most people believe that the study of disease is a part of science and that the work of scientists benefits them, those in their communities, or both. Many also indicate an interest in learning more about science, so discussing the science behind particular concerns, or related to decisions in treatment, is likely to be appreciated and well-received, as long as it is discussed in an understandable and honest way.
  • Factors, such as income, religious beliefs, and region of the world that a person is from, will also play a role in how information is received.

Read the complete report.

Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Vaccine Education Center staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.

You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family's personal health. You should not use it to replace any relationship with a physician or other qualified healthcare professional. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult your physician or, in serious cases, seek immediate assistance from emergency personnel.