Whitmer Signs Directive to Improve Health Care Equity in Michigan

Lamenting the “disparate impact on people of color” of the coronavirus pandemic, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is establishing new rules for the state that will require health care professionals to undergo training to help reduce racial and other disparities in the delivery of medical services in the Great Lakes state, through a new Executive Directive today.

The governor today has signed Executive Directive 2020-7 which directs the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to begin developing rules that will require implicit bias training as part of the knowledge and skills necessary for the licensure, registration and renewal of licenses and registrations of health professionals in Michigan. Implicit bias training was one of the recommendations made by the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, which Governor Whitmer created in response to the devastating and disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on communities of color.

The governor said this morning, “There’s no doubt that our front line health care workers like doctors and nurses have been the real heroes of this crisis, putting their lives on the line for us every day,” adding, “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. 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.”

Whitmer says that since day one, both she and Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II have been committed to making Michigan a more equitable state. During her State of the State Address this year, she called for implicit bias training for all healthcare and medical professionals to combat racism felt across the healthcare industry.

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Lt. Governor Gilchrist II, Chair of the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, says, “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,” and adds, “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.”

As of July 5th, black Michiganders represented 14-percent of the state population, but 40-percent of confirmed COVID-19 deaths in which the race of the patient was known. COVID-19 is over four times more prevalent among black Michiganders than among white Michiganders.

The National Healthcare Disparities Report concluded that white patients received care of a higher quality than Black, Hispanic, Indigenous and Asian Americans. People of color face more barriers to accessing health care than white people and are generally less satisfied with their interactions with health care providers.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy Director for Health, says, “There is no question that our healthcare workers have risked their own lives and saved countless others during the COVID pandemic, but the fact is that implicit bias exists, and studies show that it can have an impact on health outcomes. Every healthcare professional should be trained in implicit bias so that we can make sure everyone, regardless of their race or ethnicity, has access to the highest quality care.”

Micheal Chafty, MD, Chair of the Michigan Board of Medicine, responding to the governor’s directive, says, “This is an excellent step in the right direction, I applaud our Governor for addressing this issue and as Chair of the Board of Medicine, I stand ready to work with our board members and the Administration to establish implicit biased training for physicians.”

Under Executive Directive 2020-7, Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs is required to consult with relevant stakeholders in the medical profession, in state government and elsewhere in the community by November 1, 2020 to help determine relevant goals and concerns under the new rules. The department will work in collaboration with the relevant professional boards and task forces to promulgate the rules.

To view Executive Directive 2020-7, click the link below:

ED-2020-07