Trump administration bans seven words at health agencies

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Trump administration bans Center for Disease and Control from using seven words

WASHINGTON The Trump administration has told agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to avoid using certain words or phrases in official documents being drafted for next year's budget, the Washington Post reported.

The newspaper said one of the agencies, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was given a list of seven prohibited words or phrases:

  • vulnerable;
  • entitlement;
  • diversity;
  • transgender;
  • fetus;
  • evidence-based;
  • science-based

Officials at a second agency were also told to use "Obamacare" instead of the Affordable Care Act to describe President Barack Obama's 2010 healthcare law and to use "exchanges" instead of "marketplaces" in reference to venues where people can buy federally subsidised health insurance, the Post reported.

The HHS pushed back on the report, Reuters reported.

"The assertion that HHS has 'banned words' is a complete mischaracterisation of discussions regarding the budget formulation process," spokesman Matt Lloyd said in a statement.

"HHS will continue to use the best scientific evidence available to improve the health of all Americans.

"HHS also strongly encourages the use of outcome and evidence data in program evaluations and budget decisions."

The newspaper said State Department documents also now refer to sex education as "sexual risk avoidance".

A briefing at the second HHS agency relied on a document from the White House Office of Management and Budget, which oversees President Donald Trump's annual budget proposal to Congress, according to the Post.

The Post said no explanations were given for the language changes.

It was very much, ‘Are you serious? Are you kidding? A long-time CDC analyst

In a 90-minute briefing on Thursday, policy analysts at the nation's leading public health institute were presented with the menu of seven banned words, an analyst told the paper.

The reaction in the room was "incredulous," the long-time CDC analyst told the Post.

"It was very much, 'Are you serious? Are you kidding?'"

The CDC has a budget of about US$7 billion (S$9.4 billion) and more than 12,000 employees working across the nation and around the globe on everything from food and water safety to heart disease and cancer to infectious disease outbreak prevention.

"Among the words forbidden to be used in @CDCgov budget documents are "evidence-based' and 'science-based".

"Here's a word that's still allowed: ridiculous," the American Association for the Advancement of Science wrote on its Twitter account.

The March for Science, which saw thousands of people protest in Washington and elsewhere earlier this year, called for the reported decision to be reversed.

"We call on the administration to remove this ban and on our representatives to protect the scientific communities right to openly discuss their research and its impact on our world," it said on Twitter.

NARAL Pro-Choice America, which advocates for women's rights to abortions, added: "Forbidding scientists & researchers from using medically accurate terminology amounts to yet another backdoor tactic to curtail our basic rights & freedoms."