Black residents make up 14 percent of the state’s population but 40 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases, and the virus is four times more prevalent among Black Michiganders than white Michiganders.
In response to this disparity, Gov. Whitmer today signed an executive order that directs the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) to develop rules that will require healthcare professionals in Michigan to undergo implicit bias training. LARA must consult with relevant stakeholders in the medical field, government, and community by Nov. 1 to determine the goals and concerns under the new rule.
“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,” says Whitmer in a press release. “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. That’s why my staff has begun this kind of training and every member of my team, including me, will complete this type of training on an annual basis.”
Implicit bias training was one of the recommendations made by the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, which is led by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II. In a recent interview with Hour Detroit, he said that one of the first things the task force did was send out letters warning Michigan medical providers that medical bias may unintentionally factor into who gets tested for COVID-19 and what treatment they receive.
“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,” Gilchrist says. “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.”
Whitmer also called for implicit bias training to combat the racism in healthcare during during her State of the State Address in February. In addition to the disparities revealed during the pandemic, the National Healthcare Disparities Report shows that white patients receive higher quality care than Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, and Asian Americans. Additionally, people of color face more barriers to accessing quality care than white patients and are less satisfied with their interactions with health professions.