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Shackleford renews push for cultural competancy in health care

State Rep. Robin Shackleford (D-Indianapolis), IBLC Chair and ranking minority member of the Public Health Committee, is reintroducing her bill aimed at tackling disparities in health care through cultural competency and implicit-bias training.

During the 2021 session, Shackleford introduced House Bill 1333, which would have established a cultural awareness and competence training program for health care professionals, however the bill was never given a hearing nor was it accepted as an interim study topic by the majority. The bill was drafted with the death of Dr. Susan Moore in mind, which brought national attention to cultural insensitivity in Indiana’s health care systems. 

While Indiana has been slow to take action on this pressing issue, Shackleford has been successful in her continued fight to advocate for change by passing a Directive urging Congress to consider legislation that will promote cultural competence training for health care providers at the National Conference of State Legislatures 2021 Legislative Summit. She was also successful in unanimously passing her resolution calling for cultural competence to improve health care outcomes at the 2021 National Black Caucus of State Legislators Annual Conference.

 “The need for legislation that promotes cultural competence in our health care systems has only grown since the tragic death of Dr. Susan Moore. Minority communities continue to disproportionately experience poor health outcomes across the board,” Shackleford said. “It’s time for the legislature to confront the structural problems that create these inequities and that means addressing implicit bias in our systems of care.”

 The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the disproportionate health outcomes minority communities experience. A recent study found racial minorities in Indiana were 3–4 times more likely to be hospitalized and twice as likely to die as a result of COVID-19. These disparities mirror disproportionate rates in other significant health metrics like diabetes, heart disease, life expectancy and maternal and infant mortality.

 “These disparities are a result of structural systems that create inequity,” Shackleford said.  “We owe it to the citizens of this state to employ strategies to address these life-and-death issues. I will continue to fight for Hoosiers to receive equitable care and resources.”

 Shackleford will introduce a cultural competence bill in the 2022 session which will require health care professionals to complete two hours of cultural awareness and competence training and require the state health data center to maintain statistics concerning race and ethnicity, sex, primary language and disability status consistent with standards established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

 Shackleford’s legislation is based on a direct recommendation from the 2020 Indiana Health Disparities Task Force, which states, “Indiana’s health care professionals need cultural awareness and implicit racial bias training.

 “We cannot begin to address the racial disparities in health outcomes until we address the underlying cause,” Shackleford added. “Acknowledging implicit bias and enacting effective policy will not only improve outcomes for minorities but improve health care systems overall by facilitating trust between providers and patients through empathetic care and improved communication. We must address this lack of awareness with the urgency it deserves, no one should have to lose a loved one because of a lack of compassionate care.”

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