Health literacy among self-help leprosy group members reduces stereotype endorsement and stigma-related harm in rural Nepal.
There is increasing appreciation that group memberships can have both beneficial and damaging impacts on health. In collaboration with Nepal Leprosy Trust (NLT), this longitudinal study explores a group-based approach to stigma reduction among people affected by leprosy in rural Nepal (N = 71)-a hard to reach and underrepresented non-WEIRD population. Informed by the 'social cure' literature, and the progressive model of self-stigma, we use a longitudinal design. We found that a sense of belonging to a self-help group can facilitate education in terms of health literacy, and over time these two factors also have impacts on participants stigma. Specifically, self-help group belonging predicted improvements in health literacy, leading to reduced endorsement of negative stereotypes and thus less stigma-related harm among people affected by leprosy. The study offers promising evidence that group-based interventions, which support health education, can reduce the harmful impact of stigma in very challenging contexts.