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Fogarty International Center (FIC)

Monday, October 27, 2003

Irene Edwards

Fogarty International Center Announces First Awards For Research Program in Stigma and Global Health

Bethesda, Maryland — The Fogarty International Center (FIC) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announces 19 new research grants to support both domestic and international collaborations to study the role of stigma in global health and to combat its negative effects. The FIC led the development of the Stigma and Global Health Research Program in close collaboration with 11 NIH partners*, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction (INMHA) of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The combined financial commitment from FIC and its partners is approximately $4 million for the first year of these three- to five-year awards. Total support will be approximately $16.5 million over the next five years.

Stigma 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 can be disapproval, rejection, exclusion, and, ultimately, discrimination. 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. Little is known about the pervasiveness of stigma in the developing world and how healthcare systems can tackle its negative consequences. Effective action has been slow in coming, in part because of the continuing gaps in knowledge.

"Stigma is receiving increased attention as a limiting factor in improving health around the world, including the United States. Its relevance to developing countries is particularly striking, but societal response has to date been largely restricted to legal and educational action. This unique program takes a different approach, by initiating research studies to understand stigma's underpinnings in different settings and societies so that interventions can be designed and tested on a base of concrete knowledge," said FIC Director Gerald T. Keusch, M.D. on behalf of the partners. "The program grew out of discussions at a major international conference on Stigma and Global Health organized in 2001 by FIC, with over 20 partners and with major developing country participation. At that time, participants agreed that the complex issues were researchable, and that good studies would lead to interventions with real impact," he added.

"This joint research initiative represents another link in the strong relationship between CIHR and NIH," said Rémi Quirion, Ph.D., Scientific Director of the INMHA. "This program will help break the circle of silence on stigma by bringing together researchers to study its negative impact. The program will facilitate the study of stigma across a variety of disciplines, including biomedical, social, and behavioral sciences — a key priority of INMHA."

In making these awards, FIC and its partners will establish a global network of researchers who will develop the field of stigma and global health research by testing hypotheses and generating data on the etiology of stigma and effective interventions for its negative effects on health. Both informally and in formal meetings convened by NIH and others the researchers will share findings about best practices, opportunities, and obstacles in research on stigma related to global health. More information about the program is available on the FIC website at: http://www.fic.nih.gov/programs/stigma.html.

Successful applicants

FIC is the international component of the NIH. It promotes and supports scientific discovery internationally and mobilizes resources to reduce disparities in global health. NIH is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Press releases and other FIC-related materials are available at www.fic.nih.gov.

*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).

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