A public health framework for reducing stigma: the example of weight stigma

J Bioeth Inq. 2022 Sep;19(3):511-520. doi: 10.1007/s11673-022-10199-3. Epub 2022 Jul 20.


We examine stigma and how it operates, then develop a novel framework to classify the range of positions that are conceptually possible regarding how stigma ought to be handled from a public health perspective. In the case of weight stigma, the possible positions range from encouraging the intentional use of weight stigma as an obesity prevention and reduction strategy to arguing not only that this is harmful but that weight stigma, independent of obesity, needs to be actively challenged and reduced. Using weight stigma as an illustrative example, we draw on prior theoretical work on stigma mechanisms and intervention strategies to develop a framework for improving the understanding, evaluation, and planning of anti-stigma interventions. This framework has the potential to help public health actors to map out how protest, contact, education, and regulation strategies can be used to reduce direct discrimination, structural discrimination, and internalized stigma (self-stigma).

Keywords: Health behaviour; Obesity; Obesity prevention and control; Obesity psychology; Overweight; Prejudice; Public health; Social justice and psychology; Stereotyping; Stigma; Stigmatization; Weight stigma.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Prejudice
  • Public Health
  • Social Stigma
  • Stereotyping*
  • Weight Prejudice*