Stigma** is pretty much always bad and undoes health. Yet, we often see stigma sneaking its way into all types of global health interventions. We started this blog in 2016 as our own intervention of global health interventions. We want to make sure people know how health efforts designed with the very best of intentions can inadvertently create new stigmas or intensify existing ones, and most especially do harm to those already vulnerable.
We think it’s especially important to shout-out about stigma because it is so much part of “just how things just are” that it can be hard for even health experts to see. We also know it’s important to work to undo stigma’s damage because there’s a lot research showing that when people feel stigmatized it dramatically worsens their lives — they’re less likely to seek healthcare, exhibit much higher levels of stress, and they’re more likely to be victimized by a range of social and economic forms of discrimination. All of this in turn leads to widening of health disparities and spiraling of health care costs at the national level. We most want to encourage empathy — the effective opposite of stigma and the single best tool for its eradication.
Why “Lazy, Crazy, and Disgusting?” The title refers to the moral judgments that attach to people with large bodies (“Lazy” – seen in Alex’s work on obesity), mental illness (“Crazy” – from Amber’s work on depression and Alex’s on ADHD) or living without enough water (“Disgusting” – a common theme in Amber’s work on water insecurity).
**What is stigma? Stigma is when people are treated as less valued and pushed away from and out of society because they have some arbitrary characteristic, like a physical mark, disease diagnosis, or “wrong” behaviors. In part because of the deep human fear of infection and illness, health and health care is a domain in where many of the most common and powerful stigmas emerge and gain traction.