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Officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) scrambled on Monday to walk back news that the Trump administration had forbidden the agency from using certain terms in its budget documents. Banned terms include “evidence-based,” “science-based,” “fetus,” and “transgender.”

According to The Washington Post: “The forbidden words are ‘vulnerable,’ ‘entitlement,’ ‘diversity,’ ‘transgender,’ ‘fetus,’ ‘evidence-based,’ and ‘science-based.’”

Words matter, especially in the field of public health. To identify and address the shifting health needs of a diverse population, the use of clear language is critical. Censoring common terms makes it harder for public health professionals at the CDC to serve the needs — and protect the lives — of the public.

How should public health workers give sound advice about Zika to expectant mothers without saying the word “fetus”?

How do we continue the nation’s progress toward lower rates of teen pregnancy without basing federal policy on science?

How can America continue to limit the spread of HIV without shaping public health decisions around sound evidence

… or listening to transgender people?

How do we protect vulnerable populations — such as children in Flint, Mich., who face the risk of lifelong health consequences from lead exposure — if federal health officials can no longer even say “vulnerable”?

Americans’ health depends on the ability to get clear, reliable information. The Trump administration should stop playing word games — and we should be as clear as this Twitter user about the damage that censoring officials’ words, when it comes to public health, might do.

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