HARRISBURG, June 26, 2024 – On the heels of a new report detailing racial biases in the U.S. healthcare system, state Rep. Morgan Cephas, D-Phila., today emphasized the need for her legislation that seeks to resolve the subconscious biases of healthcare providers in the state so they can improve patient care and adapt practices for the diverse communities they serve.

A lengthy report released today by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine laid out the harms of structural racism in the U.S. healthcare system to minority populations and offered solutions to combatting the problem. Cephas’ legislation (H.B. 2178) to address the biases of healthcare providers in Pennsylvania was introduced in April.

Under Cephas’ bill, each person applying for a license or certification issued by a health-related board within the Department of State would be required to complete training regarding implicit bias and cultural competence. Such training would, at minimum, include an understanding of implicit bias and include practical techniques to reduce unconscious bias and improve cultural competence.

“There is extensive evidence and research of implicit bias in our healthcare system, resulting in the unequal treatment of patients based on race, gender, weight, age, language spoken, income and insurance status, and most often leading to negative health outcomes for poor people and communities of color,” Cephas said. “While it may be unintentional, it’s happening. And we have a collective responsibility to address it.

“This new report further cements the need to continue to address structural racism and bias in Pennsylvania’s healthcare system, along with the rest of the nation,” she said.

Cephas said pregnancy, acute care and chronic disease are prime examples of cases where race, ethnicity, gender and age can influence – positively or negatively depending on the clinician’s unconscious bias – a patient’s experience and relationship with their provider.

“Having access to culturally competent providers can improve maternal and infant mortality rates, post-operational outcomes, and overall patient comfort and peace of mind,” she said.

Health boards and disciplines impacted by the continuing education requirement in her bill include chiropractic, dentistry, massage therapy, medicine, nursing, nursing home administrators, occupational therapy, optometry, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy, podiatry, psychology, speech pathology and audiology, and social workers, marriage and family therapists and professional counselors.

According to Cephas, the bill is one among the “PA Momnibus” package of bills she’s introducing with members the PA Black Maternal Health Caucus, of which she is co-chair.