The National Institutes of Health is considering changes to its mission statement amid concerns that the existing one furthers “ableist beliefs” that people with disabilities are “flawed” and need to be “fixed.”

The nation’s medical research agency recently issued a request for information on a proposed new mission statement. The move comes at the recommendation of the NIH’s Advisory Committee to the Director after its subgroup on disabilities took issue.

The current mission statement indicates that the NIH’s objective 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.”

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A report issued late last year by the disability subgroup concluded that the language related to reducing disability was especially problematic.

“One immediate action for the NIH to support disability inclusion is to remove the language of ‘reducing disability’ from the NIH mission statement. The current mission statement could be interpreted as perpetuating ableist beliefs that disabled people are flawed and need to be ‘fixed,'” the report found.

Following discussions among NIH leadership and subject matter experts, the agency is now proposing a new mission statement which reads: “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.”

The agency is seeking feedback from the public on the new language through Nov. 24.

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