While Zika remains a hot topic in the news, a new survey by Mayo Clinic reveals that Americans believe the country's most significant health care challenge is cancer. In fact, the survey findings report "infectious diseases, such as Zika and Ebola," are tied with HIV/AIDS as the least important health care challenges listed by respondents following cancer; obesity; neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; diabetes and heart disease.
These findings were uncovered as part of the Mayo Clinic National Health Checkup, which first launched in January 2016 and provides a quick pulse on consumer health opinions and behaviors several times throughout the year.
"With the most recent pulse, we explored consumer perceptions about hot topics in health care, cancer, brain health and sleep," says John T. Wald, M.D., medical director for Public Affairs at Mayo Clinic. "At Mayo Clinic, we feel that we have a responsibility to help lead the conversation about health and wellness, and empower people to make healthy choices. This research helps to shape that dialogue."
Most progress perceived with heart disease; least progress perceived with obesity
While respondents listed cancer as the most important health care challenge, nearly three-quarters believed that at least some progress was being made to address it. Americans were most likely to say that progress was being made with heart disease (83 percent) and least likely to answer that progress was being made with obesity (52 percent). However, black and Hispanic respondents were twice as likely as white respondents to say that progress is being made with obesity.
Health care to influence presidential vote for 95 percent of Americans
Health care has played a significant role in past presidential elections, and it appears that 2016 will be no different. Nearly 95 percent of respondents said that one of the following health care issues would influence their choice of a presidential candidate:
•"Lowering health care costs" (79 percent)
•"Improving the quality of health care" (78 percent)
•"Improving access to health care" (72 percent)
•"Increasing funding for medical research" (63 percent)
Western respondents significantly less interested in cancer vaccine
While 84 percent of overall respondents said they would be interested in receiving a vaccine to prevent cancer, people who live in the West were significantly more likely than those living in the South, Northeast or Midwest to say that they would not be interested in a cancer vaccine. Current cancer vaccine options are limited to the HPV vaccine, which helps reduce the risk for cervical cancer. However, Mayo Clinic's Florida campus is advancing options to address cancer by conducting clinical trials of a vaccine designed to prevent the recurrence of triple-negative breast cancer, a subset of breast cancer for which there are no targeted therapies.
Brain cancer considered 'scariest cancer'; colon and skin cancers 'least scary'
More respondents consider brain cancer as the most concerning type of the disease:
•Brain (38 percent)
•Pancreatic (20 percent)
•Lung (10 percent)
•Breast (8 percent)
•Prostate (7 percent)
•Colon (5 percent)
•Skin (5 percent)
"A cancer diagnosis is scary for anyone, no matter the type," says Dr. Wald. "The positive thing is that early detection and treatment can significantly improve patient outcomes, and we have excellent screenings for many of these cancers. Today, the five-year survival rate for all breast cancers is 91 percent - in large part because of early detection and advances in treatment."
Nearly two-thirds of baby boomers concerned about brain health
While significantly more baby boomers were concerned about their brain health, compared to millennials and Generation X (63 percent, compared to 48 percent and 52 percent, respectively), the majority of respondents (84 percent) agreed with this statement: "It's normal to start forgetting things as you age." Most believed that memory starts to decline in the 50s or 60s, but more young respondents (18-45) answered that memory declines in the 30s and 40s, and almost half of older respondents (65+) answered that memory declines in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
Half of Americans get a 'good night's sleep' less than half the time
Most people (72 percent) define a "good night's sleep" as seven or eight hours, but more men (24 percent) than women (16 percent) and more people who live in the Northeast (27 percent) than Midwest (15 percent) consider six or fewer hours to be a "good night's sleep." Nearly half of all respondents (49 percent) said that they get "a good night's sleep" half the time or less. While parents of young children may disagree, the data also revealed that how often we get a "good night's sleep" is not impacted by whether there are children in the household.
Respondents shared that, on the days when they hadn't had enough sleep, they compensate by drinking more water (58 percent), drinking caffeine (54 percent), eating healthier foods (45 percent) and exercising (43 percent).
"Somewhat surprisingly, the biggest motivator for prioritizing sleep was 'improving mood,' which beat out options such as 'extending life span' and 'preventing neurological diseases, such as dementia,'" says Dr. Wald. "This seems to support the idea that Americans are focused on the immediate, rather than long-term impact of their actions, which is helpful in how we look to positively influence consumer health behaviors."