WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Wednesday announcing the COVID-19 Bias and Anti-Racism Training Act, legislation to ensure health providers and other individuals involved in COVID-19 testing, treatment, vaccine distribution, and response receive bias and anti-racism training. The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the urgent need to address longstanding biases in our health care system. Representative Alma S. Adams (D-NC-12) will introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
COVID-19 is disproportionately infecting and killing minorities across the nation. The COVID-19 Bias and Anti-Racism Training Act builds on Sen. Brown’s work to address the staggering racial and ethnic disparities that have emerged during this pandemic, including his introduction of the COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force Act and his calls for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to improve the collection and public dissemination of COVID-19 demographic data. According to available data, Black and Hispanic individuals across the country are three times as likely to contract COVID-19 compared to their white counterparts, and are nearly twice as likely to die from the virus. In Ohio, Black individuals represent 26 percent of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 – double that of their population proportion. Health equity for communities of color cannot happen until we address the persistent bias in our health care system.
“We know our country has a long history of systemic barriers to housing, jobs, wages and so much more that all contribute to health inequities. The data that we’re seeing is very troubling – this pandemic is laying bare so many of the disparities in our society, from health hazards – to the job opportunities people have – to housing. These numbers are a clear indication that we need to do more to address the disproportionate impact this crisis has had on Black and Brown people, and step up to address all the social determinants of health that communities of color continue to face,” said Brown.
The COVID-19 Bias and Anti-Racism Training Act would support bias and anti-racism training for individuals involved in COVID-19 testing, treatment, vaccine distribution, and response.
Specifically, the bill would:
- Create a $200 million grant program for hospitals, other health care providers, state, local, Tribal, and territorial public health departments, medical and other health professional training schools, 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.
- Prioritize funding for entities in communities with high racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admission, and death rates.
- Require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to collaborate with health care professionals, policy experts specializing in addressing bias and racism within the health care system, and community-based organizations to develop requirements for evidence-based, ongoing bias and anti-racism training.
Along with Brown, Harris, and Adams, this legislation is co-sponsored by Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
The COVID-19 Bias and Anti-Racism Training Act is supported by the American Hospital Association, American Public Health Association, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Association of American Medical Colleges, Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, Association of Black Cardiologists, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Black Women’s Health Imperative, California Hospital Association, California Medical Association, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, California Rural Indian Health Board, CLASP, Color of Change, Empowering Pacific Islander Communities, Families USA, Justice in Aging, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, National Birth Equity Collaborative, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, National Council of Urban Indian Health, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Medical Association, National Urban League, Pacific Islander COVID-19 Response Team, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Third Way, Trust for America’s Health, UnidosUS, and University of California.