Recognizing and reducing stigmas in healthcare

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Arizona State University anthropologists and President’s Professors Alexandra Brewis and Amber Wutich have written a book addressing stigmas in healthcare. The book is called “Lazy, Crazy, and Disgusting: Stigma and the Undoing of Global Health.”

Brewis and Wutich have spent many years identifying stigmas within health care practices across the world. Through global health classes, online trainings and an award-winning book, the professors are bringing attention to an often overlooked but solvable problem.

Over the last decade, Brewis says she has studied weight and issues around weight stigma in clinical settings. Meantime, Wutich has focused on people’s experiences of living with inadequate sanitation in places like South America and the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Brewis said what is most concerning is when doctors contribute to the pain patients are already enduring from self-stigma. For example, she said people with large bodies sometimes avoid going to the doctor’s office because they anticipate poor treatment. 

The book is a continuation of the work the professors do at the Center for Global Health and the Culture, Health, and Environment Laboratory in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. In the lab, undergraduate and graduate students are involved in their data collection and analysis, with collaborators at many different sites all around the world.

Both Brewis and Wutich have stepped beyond the book by creating training courses such as, “Recognizing and Challenging Stigma,” to help further break the stigmas in global health care. This course helps those who are seeking an accessible overview of the book, which includes recommendations for how health professionals can avoid promoting stigmas through their work.

The book itself has won many awards such as the 2022 Human Biology Association Book Award and the 2020 Carol R. Ember Book Prize from the Society for Anthropological Sciences.

Alexandra Brewis; Author & ASU Anthropologist

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