Fogarty International Center announces new research program in stigma and global health

August 28, 2002

National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland -- The Fogarty International Center (FIC) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced a new research program to support international collaborations to study stigma and global health. FIC, with 11 NIH partners, the Health Research Services Administration, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) with the International Development Research Centre, has issued a Request for Applications for the Stigma and Global Health Research Program. Stigma is a process that occurs when perceived differences between an individual or group and the rest of society result in an unfavorable labeling of that person or group. The consequences of stigma can be disapproval, rejection, exclusion, and ultimately discrimination. The current combined financial commitment of the Stigma and Global Health Research Program partners is approximately $2.75 million for the first year. Total support will be approximately $11 million over the next five years.

In addition to FIC, the 11 NIH partners are the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD), the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), the Office of AIDS Research (OAR), the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), and the Office of Research on Women's Health (ORWH).

"Our goal in this program is to support research that leads to better understanding of the role of stigma in health throughout the world. Research in this area is the best hope for developing evidence-based interventions to prevent or mitigate stigma's negative effects on the health of individuals, families, and societies worldwide," said FIC Director Gerald T. Keusch, M.D. on behalf of the partners. "Stigma prevents people from seeking diagnosis and care and from participating in research that could lead to effective interventions. This program will break new ground by providing new information to help us understand stigma and, most importantly, minimize its impact on health."

"This joint research initiative is an excellent beginning for a strong relationship between CIHR and NIH," said Rémi Quirion, Ph.D., Scientific Director of CIHR's Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction. "It will help break the circle of silence on stigma by bringing together researchers to study its negative impact. This program will facilitate the study of stigma across a variety of disciplines, including biomedical, social, and behavioral sciences -- a key priority of CIHR."

Affecting individuals around the world, stigma threatens psychological and physical well-being, and helps to perpetuate health inequalities within societies. While many conditions are stigmatized, much of the recent focus has been on the plight of individuals who have AIDS or are suspected to have AIDS, and those suffering from mental health disorders. Yet effective action has been slow in coming, in part because of the continuing gaps in knowledge. Little is known about how pervasive the problem of stigma is in the developing world, the mechanisms involved, and how healthcare systems can tackle its negative effects.

For these reasons, in partnership with other NIH Institutes and Offices, U.S. agencies, and domestic and international organizations, FIC convened a major international conference in September 2001 to explore the relationship between stigma and public health, examine the social and cultural determinants of stigma, explore how stigma prevents people from getting treatment for disease, and determine future research opportunities. The conference brought together health professionals, scientists and media and policy experts from around the world, including more than 100 from developing countries. The conference was notable because it was the first to address the relationship of stigma to global health, including infectious and non-infectious diseases, as well as physical and behavioral conditions, and because many of the participants were from the developing world, where conditions that are often stigmatized are highly prevalent. Information and presentations from the conference are available at www.stigmaconference.nih.gov.
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Applications for the Stigma and Global Health Research Program are due by November 14, 2002, and the deadline for receipt of Letters of Intent is October 14, 2002. The Request for Applications is available at http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-TW-03-001.html. More information about the program is available on the FIC website at www.nih.gov/fic/programs/stigma.html.

INMHA supports research to enhance mental health, neurological health, vision, hearing, and cognitive functioning and to reduce the burden of disease of related disorders through prevention strategies, screening, diagnosis, treatment, support systems, and palliation. More information about INMHA is available at www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca/institutes/inmha/index_e.shtml.

FIC is the international component of the NIH. It promotes and supports scientific discovery internationally and mobilizes resources to reduce disparities in global health. FIC will commemorate its thirty-fifth anniversary in 2003 with a year-long lecture series on global health issues and a scientific symposium on May 20-21, 2003. NIH is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Press releases, fact sheets, and other FIC-related materials are available at www.nih.gov/fic.

NIH/Fogarty International Center

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