A recent news conference with California Attorney General Rob Bonta revealed the results of a new Department of Justice investigation over implicit bias among healthcare workers in perinatal settings.
"We need to listen to this data. It's screaming at us to do something," Bonta said.
The announcement comes after a bill was passed by state legislatures in 2019 requiring all health professionals to receive training to reduce racial biases. Black women have maternal mortality rates that are significantly higher than any other racial group, according to data.
"Many Black moms aren't taken seriously when they communicate their pains, their discomfort to doctors. And we know that those are biases, they're non-intentional biases that staff at hospitals hold," said Je Ton Carey, who works with the Children's Council of San Francisco.
Carey says factors like a lack of investment and systemic racism are two of the main reasons for the high mortality rate amongst Black women. Meanwhile, she says health care inequalities eventually end up impacting millions of Black children as well.
The attorney general reported that in August 2021, fewer than 17% of hospitals statewide had initiated employee training when the investigation commenced. Presently, that figure has surged to over 80%.
Although there has been progress, Bonta emphasizes that further efforts are required. "Time is critical. In healthcare, bias can mean the distinction between life and death," stated Bonta.
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