Commentary suggests public health implications from seven banned words

Woodruff Health Sciences Center | Jan. 8, 2018


Melva Robertson

Banning seven words from official U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) budget documents may have at least seven serious consequences, according to a recent commentary by public health researchers from Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health. The commentary, titled, "Seven Deadly Sins Resulting from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Seven Forbidden Words," is available online at the Annals of Internal Medicine.

According to lead author Kenneth Castro, MD, professor in the Hubert Department of Global Health and Department of Epidemiology at Rollins School of Public Health and the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine, omissions of the words "vulnerable," "entitlement," "diversity," "transgender," "fetus," "evidence-based" and "science-based," could jeopardize the work of the government-funded healthcare practitioners and professional organizations. Discussions of the omission of these words began on December 15, 2017 in reports by the Washington Post.

In the commentary, Castro and the team including Dabney P. Evans, PhD, assistant professor, Carlos del Rio, MD, chair of the Hubert Department of Global Health and James W. Curran, MD, dean of the Rollins School of Public Health, indicate several consequences including "a high risk of unleashing a slippery slope of self-censorship, obfuscation in communications, and spill-over into other agencies and key partners."

Authors commend CDC leadership for addressing the reports but encourage public health professionals to remain aware of additional discussions around this topic.

"We call upon U.S. citizens, elected representatives, academic institutions, and partner professional societies to remain vigilant and prevent the imposition of language limitations to CDC," says Castro. "We should all continue holding the agency to its 'Pledge to the American People.'"