Conscious language is about expanding representation and being intentional with our words, always with the goal of helping you improve your health. Numerous studies show that hurtful or careless words from healthcare professionals can affect your mental and physical health. That stigma can literally make people sick.
To that end, Healthline’s Conscious Language Guide serves as a useful tool for anyone seeking to learn and speak with empathy about specific health topics. The guide also aims to educate allies and potential allies on how we can all do better, recognize the current state of how we/they communicate, and make immediate changes that can help themselves and others.
While it would be much easier to be able to list the definitive dos and don’ts of language, that is not possible. Language is always changing and evolving and any list would soon be out of date which is why we are always listening for changes.
Additionally, there are no definitively ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers to what language to use. Context is important and what works for us might not work for you. This is why considering your approach to language is key and where you need to have a strong foundation. While specific word choices will change over time, our community approach first ensures that we are prioritising those who are the most important to what we do; our readers.
Our Conscious Language Initiative places community at the center and is grounded in the research of health communication. There are four main areas where we focus our efforts to practice allyship for our readers:
Our efforts prioritize conditions facing high stigma and communities that have been historically marginalized. It is here that we can have a greater impact on the lives of our readers.
Information comes from our usual sources, such as published research and government data, but to get a deeper understanding, we also talk with community members and draw from the humanities, such as anthropology and history, to understand the economic, social, and environmental factors that contribute to a condition and how it is perceived.
Individuals are the experts of their lived experience. We work with community members to co-create and review our language choices on a recurring basis.
This includes using conscious language in new content as well as updating existing content. Implementation is essential, and those at Healthline Media who diligently employ the conscious language initiative in their everyday work are integral to ensuring that our content is empathetic, non-stigmatizing, and inclusive.
We set expectations for our content and strive to meet them. We update our content to reflect the evolving nature of language and the needs of different communities, and we frequently review and revise our conscious language guidelines.