Explaining Stigma to Public Health Professionals
Stigma can be challenging to address because it is driven by both conscious and unconscious beliefs and embedded in our organizations, institutions, and policies. We developed an interactive website, Beyond Labels, to support March of Dimes staff and partners in helping people receive the best possible health care, free of stigma. The website is designed to
- Increase awareness of what stigma is;
- Identify and acknowledge the fears, myths, and misconceptions that drive stigma;
- Promote action to make institutional environments stigma free; and
- Provide a voice to those who have suffered from stigmatizing attitudes and beliefs.
We developed the interactive website in the spring of 2019 with significant input from public health professionals, the intended audience for the website. To inform the development of the website, we reviewed the literature and existing tools, trainings, and campaigns related to stigma. We also conducted in-person focus groups and virtual meetings with public health professionals. We launched the interactive website on June 26, 2019, for March of Dimes leadership, regional staff and partners.
Beyond Labels has four main sections.
- Lift the Weight of Words: a 70-second video designed to show the emotional toll stigma places on people.
- Stigma: Understanding the Problem: Content designed to increase knowledge by addressing questions such as: What is stigma? Why does it matter? Why does it happen? What does it look like?
- Stories of Stigma: Nine stories from people impacted by stigma. Promoting direct exposure to stigmatized individuals has been shown to be an effective strategy to reduce stigma.
- What You Can Do: Actionable steps that March of Dimes staff and partners can take to support the reduction of institutional stigma, including “say this, not that” and “be a change agent”.