Covid-19 infection is no longer perceived as a serious health problem, finds a large study that showed people still care about the health problems they were facing before the pandemic.
Over 10,000 people from countries including Colombia, South Africa, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Vietnam, ranked the seriousness of the seven health problems such as alcoholism and drug use, HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, lung cancer and respiratory diseases caused by air pollution and smoking, and water-borne diseases like diarrhoea.
In most countries, respiratory illnesses were perceived to be a more serious problem than Covid.
People in the seven middle-income countries perceived Covid to be serious (on par with HIV/AIDS), but not as serious as other respiratory illnesses, revealed the study, published in the journal Communications Medicine.
“An important lesson for health ministries is to not get too carried away by what media focuses on a particular point in time. It is important to avoid crowding out ordinary health services,” said Dale Whittington from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
“It’s also clear that public perceptions of the seriousness of health problems can differ considerably within and across countries and population segments defined by demographics and knowledge,” Whittington added.
Surprisingly, in six of the seven countries, the respondents ranked waterborne diseases as the least serious health problem. In the seventh country (South Africa), it was ranked next to last. In Africa, people felt that alcoholism and drug use were also more serious than Covid.
“Our survey-based approach can be used to quickly understand how the threat of a newly emergent disease, like Covid-19, fits into the larger context of public perceptions of the seriousness of health problems,” the researchers said.