A Washington Post story published over the weekend about seven words (or phrases) banned from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) budget documents-vulnerable, entitlement, diversity, transgender, fetus, evidence-based, and science-based-has triggered a strong backlash, including today from infectious disease medical groups.
The Washington Post, citing an anonymous source, reported Friday that the prohibition was made at a recent meeting of senior budget officials at the CDC.
The list of "forbidden" words and phrases given to policy analysts at the CDC also included "vulnerable", "entitlement", "diversity", "transgender" and "fetus". "It was interpreted as 'You are not to use these words in the budget narrative, '" said one person who received a briefing last week.
"The assertion that H.H.S. has "banned words" is a complete mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process", Matt Lloyd, an agency spokesman, said in a statement. But HHS officials did not clarify or answer any other questions. "Science-based" or "evidence-based" could be replaced with•"CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes". "Science is and will remain the foundation of our work", Fitzgerald said.
The Atlanta-based CDC is in charge of responding to infectious disease outbreaks, like Ebola and Zika, and tracking a wide range of chronic diseases and other health problems.
The CDC has established itself as the world's foremost public health agency through an unflinching commitment to free and fearless scientific discovery. "Here's a word that's still allowed: ridiculous", Rush Holt, CEO of AAAS (Science's publisher), told the Post.
"If you are saying you can not use words like "transgender" and 'diversity, ' it's a clear statement that you can not pay attention to these issues".
But Fitzgerald did not deny that some staff may have been instructed to avoid certain language in key budget documents.
Republicans know that there is power in controlling language.
Public health officials also spoke out against the move, with Laura Magaña, the president and CEO of the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health calling on White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to "immediately and publicly withdraw this censorship order regardless of where or how it originated". It was restored after an outcry by advocates for the LGBT community.
As the Post noted, CDC's parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), issued a statement that strongly challenged the media reports.
"In conjunction with the enormous light display, HRC has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for any and all records, including communications with the CDC, relating to the banned words from November 2016 onward". But the CDC budget official also said that if they could not find a good alternative, it was acceptable to use the word, according to the HHS official.
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