Health professionals in Michigan will soon be required to undergo implicit bias training in order to obtain a license, registration or renewal of license and registration, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced on Thursday.
Whitmer said the move was recommended by the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, which was created to respond to the impact COVID-19 had on communities of color.
“There’s no doubt that our front line health care workers like doctors and nurses have been the real heroes of this crisis, putting their lives on the line for us every day,” Whitmer said in a statement. “COVID-19 has had a disparate impact on people of color due to a variety of factors, and we must do everything we can to address this disparity. The evidence shows that training in implicit bias can make a positive difference, so today we are taking action to help improve racial equity across Michigan’s health care system.”
As of July 5, Black Michigan residents make up 14 percent of the state’s population, but 40 percent of confirmed coronavirus deaths, according to the governor’s office. White patients are also more likely to receive higher quality care than black, Hispanic, Indigenous or Asian-Americans, according to the National Healthcare Disparities Report.
“The existing health disparities highlighted during the coronavirus pandemic have made it clear that there is more work to do to ensure people of color have the same access to the same quality of health care as everyone else,” said Lt. Governor Gilchrist II, chair of the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, in a statement. “By providing awareness to health care workers on how to recognize and mitigate implicit bias, we can help them carry out their mission of providing the best health care to every patient they serve.”
Under Whitmer’s new directive, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has until November 1, 2020, to consult with relevant stakeholders in the medical field, in the state government and elsewhere to determine goals and concerns about the new rules.
“There is no question that our healthcare workers have risked their own lives and saved countless others during the COVID pandemic,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health, said in a statement. “But the fact is that implicit bias exists, and studies show that it can have an impact on health outcomes. Every healthcare professional should be trained in implicit bias so that we can make sure everyone, regardless of their race or ethnicity, has access to the highest quality care.”
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Jordyn Pair is a reporter with The Michigan Star. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair. Email her at [email protected]