photo id with an inhaler as the picture, but there is a red x over it

Don't Call Me "Asthmatic"

I know that everyone with asthma sees things in a different light.

Since I work in Public Health, our approach may be different from your approach. We use "People First" language. Which means...you put the person first -- then their disease (or even a disability). You are describing what you “have” rather than what you “are”.

In fact, when I was first hired, I was told by a director in our state health department to never use the term “asthmatic.” She then explained Person First language and why it’s important.

You can avoid labeling someone

In my job, we say, “I have asthma” instead of “I’m asthmatic.” (When I hear the term “asthmatic”, it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard!) **Shudders**

Another example is to say “My son has diabetes” instead of “My son is diabetic.” Or, “My niece has epilepsy” instead of “My niece is epileptic.”

My disease doesn’t define me

Yes, I have asthma. But it doesn’t define who I am. I also have wrinkles, grey hair, am married to a fabulous guy, and have 3 kids in college. That doesn’t define me either. There are a lot of things that make me who I am, not just asthma.

Several years ago, I was part of a research study about asthma. The PI (Principle Investigator) for our grant submitted our research findings to a medical journal for publication. Our abstract was not accepted for several reasons -- including NOT using People First language. (To be fair, I had cautioned them at the beginning of the research project to use People First language, but they continued to use the “asthmatic.”)

So...they had to go back through their lengthy research article and edit several things, including every single time they used the term “asthmatic.”

Person First language reminds us to keep people first

I know some people will roll their eyes at all of this political correctness. Remember that Person First language is intended to see you as a person first, then as a person with a trait, disease or disability.

So I may have asthma, but it doesn't define me.

What are your thoughts?

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