Center for Plain Language warns of risks from confusing messages
Reposted from prnewswire.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 18, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — The Center for Plain Language is speaking out against proposed changes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) communication rules. On Friday, December 15, the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration is forbidding CDC from using seven terms and phrases in its upcoming budget documents. The terms are: diversity, vulnerable, fetus, entitlement, transgender, evidence-based, and science-based. These proposed changes discourage clarity and transparency, and could create public harm.
One of the most anti-transparency changes replaces “science-based” and “evidence-based” with “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.” Instead of a simple two-word phrase, CDC must now use a 13-word sentence with several multi-syllabic words. That change could cause confusion for anyone with low health literacy skills. And that is a large number of Americans.
According to CDC’s own website, “Nine out of 10 adults struggle to understand and use health information when it is unfamiliar, complex or jargon-filled.” While the proposed language affects CDC’s budgeting process, it may trickle down to patient-facing communications as well.
“The National Assessment of Health Literacy found that at least 30 million American adults have below basic health literacy,” said Jennifer Pearce, Center Board member and health literacy expert. “Why would anyone want to discourage understanding and clarity for some of our most ‘vulnerable’ citizens?”
Forcing anti-transparency language on a government agency that won twice at the 2017 ClearMark Awards — which recognize North America’s best plain language work —is unacceptable. We should be encouraging clear government communication, not stifling it with political word play. By speaking up, the Center hopes to encourage CDC and citizens to push back against these changes.
“We founded the Center because everyone has the right to receive clear and transparent communication,” said Susan Kleimann, the Center’s Board Chair. “We drove the Plain Writing Act of 2010, and these proposed changes galvanize our commitment to increasing clarity with the Plain Regulations Act, as well.”
The Center for Plain Language, a non-profit organization, helps government agencies and businesses write clear and understandable documents. The Center supports those who use plain language, trains those who should use plain language, and urges people to demand plain language in all documents. For more information, visit: centerforplainlanguage.org.