Person-First Language (PFL) in Medical Communications: Usage and Awareness

This page contains a poster presented at the 19th Annual Meeting of ISMPP (International Society for Medical Publication Professionals), April 24-26, 2023.

Authors and affiliations

Shobana Ganesana, Ninad Ranadea, Swapna Ganduria, and Namita Bosea

aCactus Life Sciences, Cactus Communications, Mumbai, India


Objective: An important feature of a patient-centered care model is the use of patient-first language (PFL), which aims to avoid stigma by emphasizing the person over their disability or medical condition.1-3 We assessed PFL usage in medical literature and awareness/perspectives among medical communications (medcomm) professionals.

Research design and methods: We conducted PubMed® searches across 9 medical conditions in 5 therapy areas using predefined PFL and non-PFL terms. Five journals (across a range of impact factors) specific to each condition, identified on PubsHub™, were scanned for PFL‑specific guidelines. A 10-question awareness/perspectives survey was also conducted.

Results: Non-PFL usage was higher or similar to PFL usage in a majority of the conditions examined (5 of 9) (Table). Most journals did not have explicit guidelines for PFL usage. Of 121 survey respondents, 79% were aware of PFL and 69% believed in PFL’s ability to reduce stigma (Table).

Conclusions: Awareness and belief in PFL principles are high among medcomm professionals; however, proactive steps are needed to increase usage in medical literature.


Access more details of this study here.

About the author

Cactus Life Sciences

Cactus Life Sciences

Cactus Life Sciences helps pharma, biotech, and medical device organizations worldwide with content strategy, development, and data. We work with medical affairs to disseminate insight-driven information to healthcare professionals, payors, and patients in a range of formats.

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