Shame and Medicine Exeter
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Shame and Medicine’s sister project, Scenes of Shame and Stigma in COVID-19 (SSSC), has worked from the start to engage with policymakers and provide rapid, usable insights grounded in interdisciplinary research into pandemic shame. The SSSC research team have authored and disseminated a policy briefing, which is hosted by Policy@Exeter, a platform which creates policy change through world class research. Their work has also been showcased at a recent WHO Regional Office for Europe policy exchange event, and shared with WHO representatives and health policymakers across the European region.

The SSSC team have prepared a briefing, Shame-Sensitive Public Health and COVID-19, for the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Europe’s Behavioural and Cultural Insights Unit. Synthesising research from across the WHO European Region, the briefing makes the case for removing shame from public health interventions, and details how shame-sensitive work can reduce or mitigate some of the harms of COVID-19. The briefing  hosted by the joint Exeter-WHO Behavioural and Cultural Insights website (BCI Hub), alongside WHO reports and literature.

These policy briefings have the potential to make substantial impact in policy and practice. Shame-sensitive public health, and using a ‘shame lens’ to regard policy and practice in public health, is a paradigm shift, which could have important ramifications for how public health literature conceptualises shame, especially in relation to stigma, which is the dominant concept at present to help understand the social harms related to illness, disease and ill health.  Within academic research, our novel approach to public health through the idea of using a ‘shame lens’ and arguing for ‘shame-sensitive practice’ will open new research avenues and possibly a paradigm shift in how shame, and related emotions, are regarded within health research.