The leading causes of death for Black women are compounded by the racism of those who are supposed to help them; no more says, two Black female legislators
State Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) said at a recent Senate Health Committee hearing where she introduced her bill, “Black women are in grave danger because when they say they are in pain … some providers do not believe that and lack the cultural competency to respond appropriately.”
Mitchell noted a survey showing white medical students believed that Black patients could tolerate more pain.
Mitchell and State Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Los Angeles) presented several bills this month in efforts to mandate training and elicit state public health department to collect better data on maternal mortality rates and require hospitals to give patients more information about filing discrimination complaints.
Mitchell’s Senate Bill 464 cleared its first committee vote in the Senate this month and Kamlager-Dove’s bills were presented for their first committee hearings this week.
Kamlager-Dove’s series of bills would require doctors, physician assistants and nurses to undergo eight hours of implicit bias training and testing within two years of receiving their licenses and every two years thereafter. It also would require similar training for law enforcement.
Life-threatening consequences of ignorance and racism on the part of white professionals have been documented, including Serena Williams’s near-death experience post-childbirth, and Kira Johnson, whose pain and internal bleeding was ignored for over 10 hours ultimately resulting in her death.
In addition to gaps in post-natal care, studies show Black women are neglected with respect to care for heart attacks and heart disease, breast cancer testing, cervical cancer screening, and diabetes care— leading causes of death for Black women.
Thirty-two percent of Black women feel they’ve been discriminated against in physicians’ offices. Some examples have included: A Texas woman spoke out after her surgical team made racist remarks about her on a secretly recorded videotape while she was under anesthesia in 2015. And a white doctor in Tennessee publicly apologized to a black patient last year after referring to her by a racial slur during her appointment.
“California is at the forefront in considering the legal ramifications around implicit bias. A lot of states haven’t done so much as acknowledge the problem,” said Kelly Capatosto, a senior research associate at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University.
Studies show cultural competency training in hospitals result in fewer disparities and better communication between medical staff and patients.
“No one likes to be told what to do and no one thinks they’re a racist, so the question I hear a lot is, ‘Why do we need this?’ ” Kamlager-Dove said. “The goal is not to have punitive legislation. It is to help people acknowledge they have [implicit biases] and help reduce them.”