Health professionals as stigmatisers of tuberculosis: insights from community members and patients with TB in an urban district in Ghana

Psychol Health Med. 2009 May;14(3):301-10. doi: 10.1080/13548500902730127.


Health professionals are in a power category within any social setting so when they identify and label diseases with negative attributes, it can be recognised by society with discriminatory consequences for individuals affected in the community. This article reports how activities of health professionals, as perceived and construed by community members can be a basis of stigmatisation of patients with tuberculosis (TB) in society. One hundred individual interviews and 22 focus groups were held with community members and patients with TB, and the generated data analysed using the grounded theory techniques and procedures. Through examination of the words and statements of the participants, five inter-related ways by which activities of health professionals may expose patients with TB to stigmatisation in the community were identified: isolation and exclusionary practices; behaviours of health professionals towards patients with TB; public health discourse; food safety and hygiene practices and prohibition of full burial rites to those who died from TB. These activities are mirrored in the attitudes and behaviours of community members, and often become the basis of stigmatisation of individuals affected by TB in society. This may considerably contribute to diagnostic delay and low case finding in Ghana. Because, for fear of stigmatisation, community members who may be experiencing symptoms suggestive of TB may fail to go to the hospital. The stigma attached to TB in society may also contribute to the poor adherence to treatment seen among patients with TB in Ghana. To help to improve case finding and defaulter rate, the TB control programme should organise regular refresher courses in TB control and management for health professionals, and address the fear of infection by developing a national guidelines on how to prevent transmission of TB to health professionals within the hospital setting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Ghana
  • Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Stereotyping*
  • Tuberculosis*
  • Urban Population
  • Young Adult