The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has gotten some negative feedback on its mission statement. Now they’re considering changing it, and they want your opinion.

Read on to learn more about what the NIH is, why their current mission statement has gotten backlash and what they are considering changing it to … along with how you can be a part of this change.

What Is the NIH?

As part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the NIH is our nation’s agency dedicated to medical research. Its goal is to improve the health of our citizens and save lives. In fact, it’s the largest public funder of behavioral and biomedical research in the world. It’s credited with revolutionizing science and decades of advancements that have resulted in improved health overall.

What’s Its Current Mission Statement and What’s Considered Wrong With It?

The current NIH mission statement is:

“To seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability.”

The concerns about the mission statement are centered around the phrase “reduce illness and disability.” Many have pointed to this being an ableist belief that people with disabilities need “fixed” because they are “flawed.”

At the core of ableism is the assumption that people with disabilities are defined by their disability, are “less than” for having a disability, and require “fixing.” This desire to “cure” a person’s disability is often a patronizing desire to make them “normal.”

The bigger picture is that any ableistic language perpetuates a negative view of disability in general. This viewpoint spawns systematic oppression that affects those who identify as disabled along with anyone others consider to have a disability.

The NIH’s Advisory Committee’s subgroup on disabilities was the first to bring these concerns to the Director. This triggered the agency to issue a request for information regarding the new mission statement it’s considering.

What New Mission Statement Are They Considering and How Can I Weigh In?

The new proposed mission statement is aimed at eliminating any ableist language by removing the specific reference to disability:

“To seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and to apply that knowledge to optimize health and prevent or reduce illness for all people.”

How do you think the new mission statement compares to the previous? Do you think it accurately captures the agency’s mission without perpetuating any stigma?

The NIH wants to hear what you think! Now through November 24, 2023 they are requesting your feedback. Simply fill out a quick online form with your thoughts and be a part of this important change in our federal government.

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