A systematic review of the literature on public trust

Denis Walsh, Faculty of Arts & Science; Brian Baigrie, Faculty of Arts & Science There is growing recognition that public trust is at a low ebb across a range of issues of public health concern, from the contribution to climate change of human activity, the safety of vaccines, and the effectiveness of public health measures during the Covid-19 pandemic. This erosion of public trust is deeply troubling. Given that public support has a significant impact on the effectiveness of public health measures, an important (but much neglected) way of furthering the goal of developing resilient health systems that are able to weather future public health emergencies is research that focuses attention on the salient issues of trust, facilitates the validity of its measurement, and contributes to the identification of steps that are needed to build/re-build trust in public health.

The dearth of studies in the medical literature that include the concept of trust in the primary research question is remarkable, testifying that a thorough understanding of trust as it relates to public health is under-researched. To fill this gap, the objective of this project is to carry out a literature review that targets two questions: (1) how extant studies conceptualize the components of public trust as they influence the public’s response to public health measures; (2) how studies measure the concept of trust as a prominent factor in the public's acceptance of public health programs.