Maryland bills would require implicit bias training in effort to improve health outcomes

Maryland state Sen. Melony Griffith said the goal of a proposal that would mandate implicit bias training for health care professionals in the state is simple: “So that we can have higher quality health outcomes.”

“The racial reckoning that we’ve seen in our country has brought to the surface issues of hurt and shame and hate and blame,” said Griffith, D-Prince George’s County.

It’s an opportunity to address the impact of those issues, including health care, she added.

Griffith said the COVID-19 pandemic — specifically the issue of vaccine hesitancy among African Americans — has put the spotlight on how health disparities affect different communities.

“A provider who’s aware of the history that permeates the community should be more sensitized to a patient who comes with hesitancy and be better equipped to respond to the concerns,” Griffith said.

Griffith, the Senate president pro tempore, is among a group of lawmakers supporting the legislation that would also require the state’s Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities to publish data including race and ethnicity every six months.

The bill would also mandate an appropriation of $1.7 million for the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities.

A Senate committee will have a hearing on the bill Tuesday. The bill is also supported by Sens. Joanne Benson, Arthur Ellis, Delores Kelley, Mary Washington and Chris West.

A House version of the bill is also under consideration.

House Bill 28, sponsored by Dels. Joseline Peña-Melnyk and Robbyn R. Lewis, aims to increase health in Black and brown communities.

The bill would require health professionals to undergo implicit bias training before renewing their license or certificate to practice as well.

It would also mandate that the governor allocate 1.2% of the state Department of Health’s budget to the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities each fiscal year, and would require the office to publish health data by race and ethnicity on its website

Testifying in favor of the bill was Dr. Sherita Golden, vice chair and chief diversity officer for Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Golden said that implicit bias plays a big role in perpetuating existing health care inequities among Black, Hispanic and indigenous communities. Those inequities are rooted in slavery and eugenics practices, Golden said.

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Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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