Infectious disease groups weigh in on CDC-budget word ban

Francis Osborne
December 21, 2017

The FDA, an agency that like the CDC is under the Department of Health and Human Services' umbrella, said on Saturday that it had not received any guidance on banned words.

One of the CDC analysts who was present at the meeting where the announcement regarding the ban was made, said that it was highly probable that all the health organizations have been handed similar mandates by the Trump administration. "Science is and will remain the foundation of our work", Fitzgerald said. But she said she did not know if there was any specific prohibition about using those seven words.

Science tallied the usage of these words in CDC's budget requests to Congress-formally known as Justification of Estimates for Appropriation Committees-for the past 4 years, including the last three submitted by Obama. And they said "fetus" is a scientific word needed for investigating ways to protect women and infants from Zika virus and its potentail congenital consequences or babies and children in the wake of the opioid epidemic. "Sources with knowledge of HHS decision say the agency hand-picked the comments that it released".

The budget preparers were instructed that instead of the phrase "evidence-based", they can say, "CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes".

In other words, what happened regarding these other terms ("transgender", "fetus", "evidence-based", and "science-based") was not that retrograde Republicans ordered career CDC officials not to use these terms but that career CDC officials assumed retrograde Republicans would be triggered by such words and, in an effort to avoid having such Republicans cut their budgets, reasoned they might be best avoided. She spoke on condition of anonymity, according to the Associated Press. The media office for the director at the National Institutes of Health, another HHS unit, told Science that "we are deferring requests to HHS".

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The source in the Washington Post report said budget officials recommended replacing "evidence-based" or "science-based" with the phrase "science in consideration with community norms and standards", which the three groups today called risky and misleading.

"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".

Another HHS official who was not present for the conversation gave a different account of the CDC meeting. "These were words that were brought up by people in the meeting due to their prior experience in formulating the CDC budget".

By Sunday, the CDC was publicly correcting the record, saying the WaPo's report had mischaracterized budget discussions. "Given that the Trump administration has already shown a propensity to defund, silence, and eliminate agencies and programs that serve medically vulnerable communities and promote research rooted in science, we are particularly alarmed by even the possibility that the administration would direct a federal scientific agency to avoid the use of medically accurate language".

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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