Stigma reduction interventions for children and adolescents in low- and middle-income countries: Systematic review of intervention strategies

Soc Sci Med. 2020 Feb:246:112749. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.112749. Epub 2019 Dec 19.


Stigmatisation and discrimination are common worldwide, and have profound negative impacts on health and quality of life. Research, albeit limited, has focused predominantly on adults. There is a paucity of literature about stigma reduction strategies concerning children and adolescents, with evidence especially sparse for low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). This systematic review synthesised child-focused stigma reduction strategies in LMIC, and compared these to adult-focused interventions. Relevant publications were systematically searched in July and August 2018 in the following databases; Cochrane, Embase, Global Health, HMIC, Medline, PsycINFO, PubMed and, and through Google Custom Search. Included studies and identified reviews were cross-referenced. Three categories of search terms were used: (i) stigma, (ii) intervention, and (iii) LMIC settings. Data on study design, participants and intervention details including strategies and implementation factors were extracted. Within 61 unique publications describing 79 interventions, utilising 14 unique stigma reduction strategies, 14 papers discussed 21 interventions and 10 unique strategies involving children. Most studies targeted HIV/AIDS (50% for children, 38% for adults) or mental illness (14% vs 34%) stigma. Community education (47%), individual empowerment (15%) and social contact (12%) were most employed in child-focused interventions. Most interventions were implemented at one socio-ecological level; child-focused interventions mostly employed community-level strategies (88%). Intervention duration was mostly short; between half a day and a week. Printed or movie-based material was key to deliver child-focused interventions (37%), while professionals most commonly implemented adult-focused interventions (53%). Ten unique, child-focused strategies were all evaluated positively, using a diverse set of scales. Children and adolescents are under-represented in stigma reduction in LMIC. More stigma reduction interventions in LMIC, addressing a wider variety of stigmas, with children as direct and indirect target group, are needed. This systematic review is registered under International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews PROSPERO, reference number #CRD42018094700.

Keywords: Adolescent; Child; Discrimination; Intervention; LMIC; Low- and middle-income countries; Stigma; Strategy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Developing Countries*
  • Humans
  • Poverty
  • Quality of Life*
  • Social Stigma
  • Stereotyping