U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) announced a bill Wednesday ensuring health providers and other individuals involved in COVID-19 testing, treatment, vaccine distribution, and response receive bias and anti-racism training.
The COVID-19 Bias and Anti-Racism Training Act will address the racial and ethnic disparities that have emerged during this pandemic.
Specifically, the bill would create a $200 million grant program for hospitals, state, local, Tribal, and territorial public health departments and nonprofits to establish or improve bias and anti-racism training programs for health care providers treating COVID-19 patients and for individuals participating in other response efforts, like contact tracing.
The act also prioritizes funding for entities in communities with high racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, ICU admission, and death rates. The bill also introduces the COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force Act, which calls for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to improve the collection and public dissemination of COVID-19 demographic data.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected African Americans in infection and death rates due to the lower quality of health and healthcare African Americans receive. Harris said the bias in the healthcare system has made it harder for African Americans to get the treatment they need.
“People of color are being infected and dying from COVID-19 at disproportionate and astounding rates,” Harris said in the release. “This is, in part, due to persistent bias in our health care system. We must take action to address this issue, especially as our country continues to face an unprecedented health crisis. I’m glad to partner with Representative Adams on this bill which is a critical step toward ensuring people—especially people of color—receive comprehensive, culturally competent care.”
Representative Alma S. Adams (D-NC) will introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“The COVID-19 Bias and Anti-Racism Training Act would help healthcare providers, state and local public health departments, and health professional schools to implement or improve bias and anti-racism training for health care professionals working on the COVID-19 response,” Adams said in the release. “The bill would prioritize solutions for communities with high levels of racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 rates and outcomes, including our hardest hit communities.
The legislation also requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to collaborate with healthcare professionals, policy experts specializing in addressing bias and racism within the healthcare system, and community-based organizations to develop requirements for evidence-based, ongoing bias and anti-racism training.