C.C.YU1, Y.G.B.TANG1, J.A.LOW2, M.MATHEWS3, C.FAHIM4, N.H.L.HA1, S.E. STRAUS4
Geriatric Education and Research Institute1, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital2, National University of Singapore3, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute4
Hate speech, discrimination and xenophobia have manifested globally because of COVID-19. As part of an international study, the health stigma and discrimination (HSD) framework guided research on public perception and reactions to stigma perception and experiences in Singapore. Findings from this study will provide guidance on messaging to reduce misinformation, stigma, and fear during an outbreak.
This was a qualitative study that deployed semi-structured informant interview, which were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis was used for coding by two researchers. This study sampled members of the public through word-of-mouth and considered intersecting categories of age (young vs old) and ethnicity.
Twenty-nine members of the public were interviewed between 29 Oct 2020 – 4 Feb 2021 and 22 major themes were identified. Findings showed that stigma marking primarily occurred for foreign workers and healthcare workers. Perceived stigma on healthcare workers was transient and not enduring, driven at the onset by fear of infection. Older adults were believed to be vulnerable and ageist attitudes could potentially be evoked in younger adults. Facilitators identified that could reduce misinformation and stigma include (i) trust in local information sources, (ii) adequacy of information (iii) an informed public (iv) good governance and (v) effective information dissemination.
Through the lens of the HSD framework, this study provided an explanatory account of the nature of stigma that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic in Singapore. It also elucidates some of the successful communication strategies and tools which should be continued.