For years, Sara worked in a hospital, making care possible for others. Now, after being diagnosed with breast cancer, she was the one in need of care.
Our world is multiracial, multicultural, and multi-ethnic. Delivering meaningful communications that resonate with as many people as possible is important to embrace diverse thinking. Using inclusive language that acknowledges diversity can help your audience feel valued and respected, building trust and inspiring action.
To maximize inclusivity in your medical communications, here are six steps to achieving bias-free language, along with implementation examples from Parexel’s medical communications team:
Developing a set of guidelines will help ensure that your communications set the right tone and promote a welcoming culture where everyone feels included. Parexel’s Editorial and Cultural Guidelines for Race & Ethnicity recommend appropriate language and provide practical examples of achieving this. Sections include grammar, phrases to avoid, appropriate imagery, and advice on preferential terminology.
Everyone has biases, whether unconscious or not. Sometimes, biases can appear unintentionally in language. It’s useful to review your work with these thoughts in mind. Check you have avoided words that could be considered offensive or insensitive. Parexel has created an Editorial and Cultural Checklist to help ensure that communications are both judgment- and bias-free.
Imagery should also reflect the broad diversity of our audiences. Image libraries typically include a wide selection of photographs that portray real people in real settings in meaningful, relatable ways. Telling people’s stories from different perspectives can enlighten and educate while diminishing prejudice and stereotypes.
Like society, language is always evolving. Perspectives shift, and new terminology constantly enters public discourse. There is no universal consensus on the most appropriate terms to use; what is acceptable to some people may not be acceptable to others. However, to ensure that Parexel is aligned with industry standards, our Guidelines follow JAMA recommendations1 and the AMA Style Guide2.
The best way to understand how to communicate with people whose backgrounds are different from yours is to be open to learning. If you’re unsure about the right language to describe racial or ethnic identity, don’t be afraid to ask. For example, Parexel worked with five Patient Advisors to ensure that our guidelines were culturally appropriate. Their insights and experience were integral to the document’s final content and structure, drawn from a wide mix of backgrounds, races, and ethnicities stretching four continents.
Inclusive language is about awareness: of the words we choose and their potential impact on other people. Through mindfulness about the language we use, together, we can help build a culture of respect, inclusivity, and equity for all.
For further information about Parexel’s Patient Communication and Engagement Services, visit our website www.parexel.com/medical-communications or contact Jakki James, Director of Patient Communications, on email@example.com.
1. Journal of the American Medical Association: Instructions for Authors
2. AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors. 11th ed. Oxford University Press 2020: amamanualofstyle.com (Updates, 19 February 2021: amamanualofstyle.com/page/live-updates)
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