A CDC Analyst Says The Agency Can’t Say These 7 Terms In Its Budget

A CDC analyst says the reaction to the ban “was very much, ‘Are you serious? Are you kidding?’ ”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the nation's leading public health agency, but it too has been muzzled by the current administration's efforts to control the conversation around urgent issues, a new report says.

According to The Washington Post, the current administration is forbidding CDC officials from using seven words and phrases in its latest budget documents: "vulnerable," "entitlement," "diversity," "transgender," "fetus," "evidence-based," and "science-based."

Policy analysts at the CDC were informed of the ban at a 90-minute meeting on December 14 with senior CDC officials who oversee the agency's budget, as one analyst in attendance told the Post. The news comes as the CDC is preparing its 2019 budget, which is expected to be released in February, according to The Guardian. (Its current budget is about $7 billion and supports more than 12,000 employees around the world, and much of their work has strong bipartisan support, the Post says.)

The attendees of the meeting on Thursday were provided with suggested alternatives for some of the forbidden terms, the Post reports. In lieu of calling anything "science-based" or "evidence-based," for example, the analysts were advised to say, "CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes."

The ban will surely affect the CDC's work — especially as the agency has been studying the Zika virus's effect on the developing fetus, for example, and working on HIV prevention among people who are transgender.

Allison Kelly, a senior leader in the CDC's Office of Financial Services, led the meeting but did not give a reason for the ban, saying only that she was the messenger, the analyst revealed. Kelly told the group the agency's budget drafts were being sent back to them for correction.

Matt Lloyd, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services (which oversees the CDC), told the Post HHS "will continue to use the best scientific evidence available to improve the health of all Americans" and "also strongly encourages the use of outcome and evidence data in program evaluations and budget decisions."

Still, the HHS has changed the way it collects and disperses information about LGBT individuals; and those individuals may lose rights, equality, and visibility as a result. As examples, the HHS has removed information about LGBT Americans from its website, archived a webpage about the federal services available to LGBT individuals and their families, and dropped questions about sexual orientation and gender identity from two surveys of elderly people.

Now, transgender individuals stand to lose vital support under this CDC ban. The CDC and its partners have been "pursuing a high-impact prevention approach to maximize the effectiveness of current HIV prevention methods among transgender people," according to a CDC webpage. The same page states the percentage of transgender individuals who received a new HIV diagnosis in 2013 was three times the national average.

This isn't the first time hot-topic buzzwords have been nixed from federal communications and documents under the current administration. In November, various news organizations realized the administration had been codifying environmental terms — deleting, for example, references to "climate change" and "global warming."

At the CDC meeting on Thursday, the reaction to the ban "was very much, 'Are you serious? Are you kidding?' " the Post's source revealed, saying he or she could not remember another time so-called "controversial" words were banned from budget documents. "In my experience, we've never had any pushback from an ideological standpoint."

Cover image via Shutterstock.

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