CDC publishes guide for 'inclusive language' to encourage 'health equity'

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a guide to “inclusive language” in order to promote “health equity” and “inclusive communication.”

“Language in communication products should reflect and speak to the needs of people in the audience of focus.,” the CDC guide reads.

The guide has multiple sections with suggestions for more inclusive language, including a section dedicated to “Corrections & Detentions” that suggests replacing terms such as “Inmate,” “Prisoner,” “Convict/ex-convict,” and “Criminal” with terms such as “People/persons,” “Persons in pre-trial or with charge,” “Persons on parole or probation,” or “People in immigration detention facilities.”

Other sections in the guide include “Disability,” “Drug/Substance Abuse,” “Healthcare Access & Access to Services and Resources,” “Homelessness,” “Lower Socioeconomic Status,” “Mental Health / Behavioral Health,” “Non-U.S.-born Persons / Immigration Status,” “Older Adults,” “People Who are at Increased / Higher Risk,” “Race & Ethnicity,” “Rural,” and “Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity,” all which suggests replacement terms for common language typically used to refer to the groups.

“These terms are vague and imply that the condition is inherent to the group rather than the actual causal factors,” the guide explains. “Consider using terms and language that focus on the systems in place and explain why and/or how some groups are more affected than others. Also try to use language that explains the effect (i.e., words such as impact and burden are also vague and should be explained).”

The guide also encourages people not to use “dehumanizing language” language, instead insisting that “person-first language” be used in its place.

“Consider the context and the audience to determine if language used could potentially lead to negative assumptions, stereotyping, stigmatization, or blame,” the guide says. “However, these terms may be appropriate in some instances.”

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