As I was scanning posters during last spring’s American Society on Aging’s conference, I spotted one presentation that stopped me in my tracks. It wasn’t about a novel piece of research or a study which made overarching claims about a new drug or program.
Freelance journalist Cassandra Willyard recently asked me on Twitter about resources on the use of appropriate, respectful language when it comes to how we identify the people who are living with various conditions or disabilities.
It was in response to an excellent question by biomedical research writer Kim Krieger about the acceptability of referring to someone with a condition as a descriptor, such as “epileptic child” or “diabetic adults.” Those constructions are called “identity-first” language, as opposed to “person-first” language where the person literally comes first: “children with epilepsy” and “adults with diabetes.” Continue reading
What do depression, diabetes, dyslexia, prosthetics, hearing loss, obesity and heart disease all have in common? All are considered disabilities or associated with increased risk of disability. About a quarter of American adults have some type of disability, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including two in five adults over age 65.
Using appropriate terminology when reporting on medical studies is important not only for the sake of accuracy and clarity, but also to avoid causing harm to populations by using specialized but often misused terms.
This can be especially true when reporting on transgender people, a population now battling a proposal by the Trump administration proposal that in effect would define them “out of existence” as far as government programs, regulations and funding are concerned, as the New York Times recently reported. It’s more important than ever for journalists to avoid inappropriate terminology when reporting on this population. Continue reading
The second season of 13 Reasons Why, a controversial teen drama TV show, premiered May 18 on Netflix. Throughout its first season, loosely based on the award-winning book by Jay Asher, the show dealt in great detail with the suicide of a high school student, including its precursors and its aftermath. Now, the show has already drawn criticism for a rape scene this season. Continue reading
More and more medical studies are focusing on research about transgender individuals: demographics, surgeries, insurance coverage, unique health needs, prevalence of mental health conditions, pregnancy, hormone therapy and any number of other issues and research questions related to transgender identity. That means journalists covering these studies need to be sure they are using appropriate terminology and not inadvertently reinforcing stereotypes or stigma. Continue reading