CDC Releases Guide to “Inclusive Language” to Encourage “Health Equity”

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

“The language used in communications products should reflect and meet the needs of those targeted by the audience,” the CDC’s guide reads.

The guide has several sections with suggestions for more inclusive language, including a section dedicated to “corrections and detentions” which suggests replacing terms such as “inmate”, “prisoner”, “convict / ex-convict” and “ criminal ”with terms such as“ Persons / persons ”,“ Persons on remand or charged ”,“ Persons on parole or probation ”or“ Persons in immigration detention centers ”.

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Other sections of the guide include “Disability”, “Drug / substance abuse”, “Access to health care and access to services and resources”, “Homelessness”, “Lower socioeconomic status”, “Mental health / Health behavioral “,” Non-US-born / immigration status “,” older adults “,” persons at increased / higher risk “,” race and ethnicity “,” rural “and” sexual orientation and gender identity “, all of which suggest alternative terms for the language generally used to denote groups.

“These terms are vague and imply that the condition is inherent in 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 like impact and burden are also vague and should be explained).

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

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

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