BC Centre for Disease Control Releases New Guide to Help Destigmatize COVID-19
The BC Centre for disease control has developed a new tool to guide written and digital content about COVID-19 and our lives during the pandemic.
The following content was adapted from this article, originally published on the BCCDC website:
A new language guide aims to make COVID-19 content more inclusive and prevent stigmatization of individuals and groups who are often inadvertently excluded from health advice because they are not properly identified or defined.
From the guide:
According to the World Health Organization and the National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health’s Let’s Talk Health Equity, the pursuit of health equity has become a worldwide public health objective. Health equity means that all people can reach their full health potential and should not be disadvantaged from attaining it because of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, sex, social class, socioeconomic status or other socially determined circumstance. Health equity “involved the fair distribution of resources needed for health, fair access to the opportunities available, and fairness in the support offered to people when ill.” While striving to improve health outcomes for all population groups, the pursuit of health equity seeks to reduce the excess burden of ill health among socially and economically disadvantaged populations.
The comprehensive guide provides recommendations on the terms and phrases to use to describe identities and behaviours, and serves as a tool for writing about COVID-19 and its effect on people.
The guide begins with broad guiding principles followed by specific information by topic that includes definitions, language options and explains why some terms are preferred over others. It draws attention to language that can exclude individuals leading to unequal access to information that help others make choices on how to protect themselves, their families and their communities during the pandemic.
Some of the guiding principles outlined by the guide include:
- Language Matters – Use inclusive and equitable terms that are relevant to your audience. Consider who may be missed when using certain terms.
- Practice the Platinum Rule – “Treat others as they wish to be treated”
- Language Evolves – Be flexible, revisit regularly, and adapt when needed.
- Use “People/Person First” Language – Focus on the person as an individual first, as an example: “person with a physical disability or mobility impairment” versus “physically disabled”, or “crippled.”
- Choice – Providing all options and respecting autonomy and agency in decision making is at the forefront of people-centred care.
- Cultural Humility – a process of self-reflection to understand personal and systemic biases and to develop and maintain respectful processes and relationships based on mutual trust.
- Trauma and Violence Informed Care – Create safer environments with an understanding that the effects of trauma are linked to health and behaviour for people.
- Harm Reduction – Respect individual rights, decisions, and goals and meaningfully engage people who use substances in design and delivery of services. Challenge stigma and focus on social justice and human rights.
- Awareness of Assumptions and Judgement – It is impossible not to have assumptions and judgements. It is the awareness of our assumptions and judgements, and how they show up in our writing that will determine how wide reaching our resources and information are.
- Self-Reflexivity – Aim to bring awareness to your own values and beliefs and the ways they interact with those who access our resources and services. Aim to see beyond established ways of thinking. Work to understand, in real time, the larger patterns, dynamics and systems at play when examining health disparities and inequities.
- Plain Language – Use simple language that is easy to understand.
"Early evidence out of the BCCDC survey on COVID-19 misinformation showed the importance of understanding our diverse communities' needs,’ said Harlan Pruden, educator with the Chee Mamuk program at the BC Centre for Disease Control and lead author of the guide. “Our Chinese, South Asian and Southeast Asian communities experience greater stress related to COVID-19 and a greater burden of COVID-19 stigma. Addressing stigmatizing language is one way we can help meet their needs."
In addition to providing recommendations on the language and terms to use, the guide also explains why these recommendations are being made and principles to follow.
The guide covers language on:
- Disease basics
- Race, ethnic and cultural identifies
- Substance use
- Sex, gender, sexual identities, pronouns and gender inclusive language
- Sexuality and bodies
- Relationships, family status and pregnancy
- Age and ability