The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a set of “guiding principles for inclusive communication” on Aug. 24. The word salad included statements like “health equity is intersectional” and described “diabetics” and “the homeless” as “dehumanizing language.” Public health communications, the guide said, “should reflect and speak to the needs of” a wide range of identities.
To that end, the guide compiles a list of “preferred terms for select population groups,” as well as a list of proscribed terms deemed insufficiently inclusive. “Assigned male/female at birth” is preferable to “biologically male/female,” “people with undocumented status” is preferable to “illegal immigrants,” and “people who are incarcerated” is preferable to “inmates,” according to the guide—which also stresses that public health officials should “avoid jargon and use straightforward, easy to understand language.”
It might seem odd for the CDC to be ironing out the finer points of woke vernacular while COVID-19 is killing over a thousand Americans each day. But the agency wasn’t starting from scratch. Rather, its guidance drew on a network of nonprofits that are institutionalizing progressivism as public health’s lingua franca.
The guide’s preferred terms for gender, for example, come straight from the LGBT activist group GLAAD, whose “Media Reference Guide” says phrases like “biologically male” are “problematic” and “reductive.” And the CDC’s “health equity lens” takes inspiration from a report by the Racial Equity Institute, which is listed at the end of the guide as an “explanation about the root causes of racism and racial inequity.” The report urges policymakers to “confront the reality that all our systems, institutions, and outcomes emanate from the racial hierarchy, on which the United States was built,” and denies that any inequalities are caused by “people’s culture or behavior.”
Reached for comment, the CDC said that its link to the report did not “constitute an endorsement.”