Attempts To ‘Erase’ Some Words From Science Discourse Will Harm Public Health

Boston Globe: How censorship can harm public health
Elizabeth Sommers, governing councilor of the American Public Health Association and a member of the Boston University School of Public Health Alumni Leadership Council; and Sandro Galea, dean and Robert A. Knox professor at Boston University School of Public Health

“On Friday, a Washington Post report suggested that a directive was issued to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that bars the agency from using seven words and phrases in CDC budget materials and official documents. … The Department of Health and Human Services has since downplayed the report in the day after its release, and CDC director Brenda Fitzgerald has tweeted her assurance that there are no banned words at CDC. But it speaks volumes about the Trump administration’s attitude toward science that even the possibility of censoring words, however ‘unofficial’ it may have been, was ever raised at all. … This latest attempt by the Trump administration to erase language that can shape the ideas of public health is one further attempt at creating alternate realities, which in this case may limit our ability to improve health. … Words matter. The words we use frame our ideas, our hypotheses, and eventually our actions. The administration’s attempt to limit the words that public health can use is a backhanded way to hobble our science and our work to create healthy populations, restricting the CDC’s scope of action without targeting the actions themselves. … Without public health, we face a much more vulnerable world…” (12/18).

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