Humanize From Discovery Institute's Center on Human Exceptionalism

CDC Goes All In on Woke Speech

Wesley J. Smith

The CDC is the supposed gold standard when it comes to science and public health. But what are we to make of the agency’s going all in on woke terminology in the name of promoting “health equity”? From its newly issued, “Health Equity Guiding Principles for Inclusive Communication”:

To build a healthier America for all, we must confront the systems and policies that have resulted in the generational injustice that has given rise to health inequities. We at CDC want to lead in this effort—both in the work we do on behalf of the nation’s health and the work we do internally as an organization.

Achieving health equity requires focused and ongoing societal efforts to address historical and contemporary injustices; overcome economic, social, and other obstacles to health and healthcare; and eliminate preventable health disparities.

CDC’s Health Equity Guiding Principles for Inclusive Communication emphasize the importance of addressing all people inclusively and respectfully. These principles are intended to help public health professionals, particularly health communicators, within and outside of CDC ensure their communication products and strategies adapt to the specific cultural, linguistic, environmental, and historical situation of each population or audience of focus.

The idea is to prevent stigma:

Language in communication products should reflect and speak to the needs of people in the audience of focus. The following provides some preferred terms for select population groups; the terms to try to use represent an ongoing shift toward non-stigmatizing language.

I’m all for respectful communication, but come on! The worry about stigma can actually keep people from self-destructive actions. But never mind. People must be made to feel comfortable even in their most dysfunctional (can I say that?) circumstances. Thus, when it comes to abusing drugs:

Instead of this . . .

  • Drug-users/addicts/drug abusers
  • Alcoholics/abusers
  • Persons taking/prescribed medication assisted treatment (MAT)
  • Persons who relapsed
  • Smokers

Try this . . .

  • Persons who use drugs/people who inject drugs
  • Persons with substance use disorder
  • Persons with alcohol use disorder
  • Persons in recovery from substance use/alcohol disorder
  • Persons taking/prescribed medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD)
  • Persons who returned to use
  • People who smoke

“People who smoke”?

Instead of the word, “homeless,” the CDC wants us to use the term, “Persons experiencing unstable housing/housing insecurity/persons who are not securely housed.” Instead of “poor,” say, “People with self-reported income in the lowest income bracket (if income brackets are defined).” Instead of “illegal immigrants,” instead use the term, “People with undocumented status.” What word salads!

And then there are the LGBTQ etc. issues. Instead of “gay” or “biologically male or female,” say:

  • LGBTQ (or LGBTQIA or LGBTQ+ or LGBTQIA2) . . .
  • Using MSM (men who have sex with men) to mean people who report being male at birth and having had sex with a person who was male at birth, regardless of self-identified sexual orientation
  • Queer
  • Pansexual
  • Asexual
  • Transgender
  • Assigned male/female at birth
  • Designated male/female at birth
  • Gender non-conforming
  • Two-spirit
  • Non-binary
  • Genderqueer
  • Gender diverse
  • People/person with intersex traits
  • Pronouns: Singular they or their, He/she/they

I can’t keep up. Read the whole thing. It is a wonder to behold.

This exercise in verbal correctness will do more harm than good. Rather than improve communication with most Americans, the CDC will instead undermine its remaining credibility with the half of the country that is not on the port side of politics, and indeed, could well turn off many of the very people the agency claims to be trying to reach — for example, those whom they are trying to vaccinate.

And the CDC wonders why so many Americans have turned their backs on “the experts.”