Washington Update

FASEB Submits Comments on Proposed Updates to NIH Mission Statement

By: France-Elvie Banda
Wednesday, November 15, 2023
On November 7, FASEB submitted comments in response to the Request for Information (RFI) seeking feedback on proposed updates to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) mission statement (NOT-OD-23-163). Following recommendations from the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) Working Group on Diversity, Subgroup on Individuals with Disabilities, to remove the language of “reducing disability” from the NIH mission statement, the proposed update to the mission statement seeks to reflect NIH’s commitment to turn scientific discoveries into better health for all.

FASEB proposed additional edits recommending a removal of terms that can be interpreted as perpetuating ableist beliefs about inherent value associated with the human body due to ability status and perceived productivity. Removing the terms “optimize” and “prevent or reduce” departs from the stigmatizing narrative perpetuated by the medical model of disability that suggests people with disabilities need to be “fixed” or “improved” to actively participate in society. FASEB highlighted that the term optimize is typically associated with improvements made to objects, actions, and processes, exemplified by its appearance in Objective 1 of the NIH-Wide Strategic Plan. FASEB advises replacing “optimize” with “protect and improve,” which puts the focus back on quality of health, and mirrors language in the opening paragraph of the NIH-Wide Strategic Plan. Overall, FASEB noted the proposed revisions to the NIH mission statement align with the three core objectives and five cross-cutting themes of the current NIH-Wide Strategic Plan.