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Seven Banned Words at CDC for Federal Budget Cycle


Dear Faculty, Students and Staff,

The Washington Post reported on Friday evening that administration officials have instructed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to not use seven words (including diversity, entitlement, evidence-based, fetus, science-based, transgender, and vulnerable) in their documents for the next federal budget cycle.

On Saturday, I joined other deans of schools of public health through the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) in sending letters to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and to the Senate Appropriations Committee. The ASPPH stated that, if The Washington Post article is correct, the policy should be reversed immediately to preserve the integrity of the CDC. “The reported policy,” the letter reads, “flatly contravenes the mission of the agency, grossly violates the agency’s pledge to the American people, and represents an appalling act of censorship.”

The letters, signed by the ASPPH President and CEO, ask for the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to provide for more information about the origin of the policy, and what steps are being taken to ensure such efforts at censorship are not attempted in the future.

I cannot imagine public health research, practice or policy decisions being made without the use of these words. If this report is accurate and the policy were to take effect, it would undermine the essential work of the CDC and other federal agencies as well as public health programs across the country.

The firestorm of attention, including the ASPPH letter, is yielding results. Yesterday, CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald stated, “I want to assure you there are no banned words at CDC. We will continue to talk about all our important public health programs.” This is a positive sign, and we should trust – and verify – that our nation’s public health leaders fully support scientific inquiry, evidence-based policy, diversity, and respect.

At this time when public health is in the news and science is being challenged, I look forward to defending the values central to us all.


Ellen MacKenzie Signature

Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD ’79, MSc ’75

Bloomberg Distinguished Professor
Bloomberg School of Public Health
The Johns Hopkins University