Does global health spending make a difference? Americans on both sides of the aisle say: Yes!

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The U.S. is spending too little or about the right amount on global health aid, according to two-thirds of Americans surveyed recently by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), with one in five saying the U.S. spends too much. Overall the majority of Americans surveyed believes the U.S. has a major role to play in the world, according to the survey executive summary, “though many remain confused about the size and composition of U.S. foreign assistance.”

According to the poll results, 49 percent of Americans believe more spending by the U.S. and other major donors would lead to meaningful progress in improving health in developing countries, while 47 percent didn’t think it would make much of a difference. On average, respondents believed that 47 cents of every dollar spent on global health aid is lost through corruption, with only 23 cents on the dollar reaching those in need. KFF President and CEO Drew Altman called this a “formidable challenge.”

“One of the strongest predictors of support was the belief that aid would make a difference,” Drew said in a column published Monday on the organization’s website. “This means that documenting the impact of assistance and then communicating that to opinion leaders and the public is absolutely critical for advocates of foreign aid and global health.”

Another strong predictor of support was knowledge or misperceptions about federal aid spending. One common misperception uncovered in the survey was that on average survey respondents thought that about 27 percent of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid, when in reality less than one percent is spent on foreign aid and only five percent of those surveyed correctly noted that.  The surveyors found that specifying that foreign aid was for global health made a big difference in the level of public support.  In stark contrast to their support for global health aid, 54 percent of those surveyed said the U.S. spends too much on overall foreign aid, versus 21 percent who said too much is spent to improve the health of people in developing countries, and 32 percent said not enough.

Also of note, party lines did not seem to influence support of U.S. global health spending – with 74 percent of Democrats, 66 percent of independents and 59 percent of Republicans responding that the U.S. spends too little or about the right amount on global health.

This is the fourth survey in a series that KFF has conducted to determine the attitudes of Americans toward U.S. spending on improving the health of those living in low-resource countries. This poll includes new questions regarding how the public views support for global health provided by the U.S. as compared to that of other donor nations, as well as views on the effects of potential decreases in U.S. funding.   Six out of ten Americans, or 62 percent , believe that a decrease in US funding for global health will translate into more illness and preventable deaths in developing countries.

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