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Science of Stigma Reduction: New Directions for Research to Improve Health

In June 2017, Fogarty's Center for Global Health Studies (CGHS) hosted The Science of Stigma Reduction: New Directions for Research to Improve Health at the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. The 3-day workshop convened U.S. and low- and middle-income country (LMIC) researchers, policymakers and program implementers, with a focus on reducing health-related stigma across disease areas, populations and settings.

Silhouette of person walking through vertical blinds toward a bright light.
Courtesy of NIH Medical Arts / Thinkstock

An article collection published in BioMed Central resulting from the workshop details case studies, articulates lessons learned, illustrates partnership strategies and sets forth key research priorities. The workshop also expects to inform NIH investments and lay the groundwork for new partnerships. It has already informed a newly established Fogarty program, Reducing Stigma to Improve HIV/AIDS Prevention, Treatment and Care in LMICs; the first round of applications were due in December 2017.

The workshop included sessions on:

  • Promoting cross-cutting approaches in research on stigma in health
  • Barriers and opportunities in stigma intervention research
  • Implementation science and its application to the delivery, adaptation and scale-up of stigma reduction interventions
  • Ethical barriers and solutions in stigma research
  • Measures, methods and interventions for research on the macro- and structural-level factors of stigma
  • Challenges and new approaches for research on intersecting stigma
  • Lessons for community partnerships in stigma research
  • Applying tools and metrics across fields to measure stigma and reduction interventions
  • Methods, challenges and solutions to link stigma reduction interventions to health outcomes
  • Building bridges for knowledge translation and integration to ensure that stigma research informs program and policy


Stigma is a major cause of discrimination in health care settings across the globe. Stigmatized individuals can be excluded from effective or quality treatment and care, and may be subject to human rights abuses, which in turn can lead to risky health care seeking behavior. Both public stigma and self-stigma can play substantial roles in how health services are sought, accessed and delivered for many diseases and conditions. Stigmatizing attitudes often stem from fear due to a lack of knowledge about a particular disease or illness - a problem that can be exacerbated in LMICs.

In 2001, Fogarty launched the Stigma and Global Health Research program with partners across NIH and the U.S. government, and convened a corresponding international conference. Fogarty's Global Brain Disorders Research program currently encourages stigma-related research. Other Institutes and Centers across NIH have issued funding opportunity announcements on assessing the role of and reducing stigma.

Large group of workshop attendees pose for a photo.
Photo courtesy of NIH

Researchers, policymakers and program implementers
gathered at NIH for The Science of Stigma Reduction.


  • University of Rochester
  • London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • International Center for Research on Women
  • Research Triangle Institute International
  • National Institutes of Health
    • Fogarty International Center
    • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
    • NIH Office of the Director
      • NIH Office of AIDS Research
      • NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR)
      • NIH Sexual and Gender Minority Research Office (SGMRO)
      • NIH Office of Research on Women's Health (ORWH)
    • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
    • National Cancer Institute (NCI)
    • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
    • Eunice Kenney Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
    • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)


Arianne Malekzadeh, M.A.
Global Health Research and Policy Analyst (Contractor)
Fogarty Division of International Science Policy, Planning and Evaluation

Updated August 2019