“Intersectional stigma” is a concept that has emerged to characterize the convergence of multiple stigmatized identities within a person or group, and to address their joint effects on health and wellbeing. While enquiry into the intersections of race, class, and gender serves as the historical and theoretical basis for intersectional stigma, there is little consensus on how best to characterize and analyze intersectional stigma, or on how to design interventions to address this complex phenomenon. A team of researchers, including Dr. Janet Turan, professor in the department of health care organization and policy at University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, sought to highlight existing intersectional stigma literature, identify gaps in our methods for studying and addressing intersectional stigma, provide examples illustrating promising analytical approaches, and elucidate priorities for future health research.
Evidence from the existing scientific literature, as well as the examples presented here, suggest that people in diverse settings experience intersecting forms of stigma that influence their mental and physical health and corresponding health behaviors. As different stigmas are often correlated and interrelated, the health impact of intersectional stigma is complex, generating a broad range of vulnerabilities and risks. Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches are required to reduce the significant knowledge gaps that remain in our understanding of intersectional stigma, shared identity, and their effects on health.
Stigmatized identities, while often analyzed in isolation, do not exist in a vacuum. Intersecting forms of stigma are a common reality, yet they remain poorly understood. The development of instruments and methods to better characterize the mechanisms and effects of intersectional stigma in relation to various health conditions around the globe is vital. Only then will healthcare providers, public health officials, and advocates be able to design health interventions that capitalize on the positive aspects of shared identity, while reducing the burden of stigma.