LANSING, Mich. – The state of Michigan is preparing to unveil new guidelines for implicit bias training for employees, particularly those in health care.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is joining officials from the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) and more to announce the state’s new guidelines for implicit bias training. The guidelines are meant to improve the quality of care for all Michigan residents, despite race and other existing barriers.
The governor’s announcement comes after the state denounced racism and inequity in health care delivery last year, which was made prominent by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In April of last year, amid the pandemic’s first spike in Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer established the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities to address issues leading to the disproportionate havoc the pandemic has wreaked on communities of color compared to white communities.
The onset of the pandemic revealed significant disparities between white and minority communities in Michigan and across the U.S., particularly in terms of virus spread and access to health care and infrastructure to curb that spread.
When the pandemic first struck, Black and minority Americans were contracting COVID-19 at higher rates than other demographic populations. In Michigan, the city of Detroit and surrounding areas in Wayne County were hit the hardest by the virus, recording the highest daily increases in virus cases and deaths in the state.
According to data analyzed by The Associated Press, in June 2020, Black COVID deaths per every 100,000 Black residents were four times the rate of white deaths per 100,000 white residents in Michigan. In May 2020, an AP analysis of national data revealed that nearly one-third of those who had died from COVID were Black, while Black people represented about 14 percent of the population in the areas covered in the analysis.
“To be sure, the causes of these disparities are multiple and complex,” reads an executive directive signed by Gov. Whitmer last summer. “Social determinants of health such as education, employment and environmental factors -- all of which correlate with race and ethnicity -- are part of the explanation. Research also shows that disparities result in part because of differences in the delivery of medical services to people of different races. The National Healthcare Disparities Report concluded that white patients received care of a higher quality than did Black, Hispanic, Indigenous and Asian Americans. People of color face more barriers to accessing health care than do white people, and are generally less satisfied with their interactions with health care providers.”
In July 2020, Whitmer signed Executive Directive 2020-07 that instructed LARA to do the following in response to racial disparities in health care:
- “LARA ... and in consultation with the relevant boards and task forces, must begin the process of promulgating rules to establish implicit bias training standards as part of the knowledge and skills necessary for licensure, registration, and renewal of licenses and registrations of health professionals in Michigan.
- “Not later than November 1, 2020, LARA must consult with relevant stakeholders in the licensed health professions, in state government, and elsewhere in the community, to receive input regarding proposed training standards.
- “This executive directive applies to the occupations under Article 15 of the Public Health Code, except for persons practicing under Part 188 (veterinary medicine).”
LARA and other Michigan officials are set to announce such training guidelines Tuesday.
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