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Legislation Requiring Implicit Bias Training for Maternal Health Providers Passes Assembly Committee

With striking disparities between the maternal health of white women and women of color in New Jersey, Assembly Democrats Shanique Speight, Eliana Pintor Marin and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson are sponsors of a bill that would require certain health care professionals to undergo implicit bias training.

The legislation would require every licensed birthing center and hospital that provides inpatient maternity services to implement an implicit bias training program for the professionals who provide perinatal treatment and care to pregnant patients.

Implicit bias is a perception someone has that they aren’t aware of, which may even contradict their conscious beliefs/feelings. This can manifest as unconscious prejudice against certain groups of people that changes the way the person interacts with members of that group.

Upon the bill (A-1079) passing the Assembly Health Committee Thursday, the sponsors released the following statements:

“Government officials and healthcare professionals alike have been making a concerted effort to improve maternal health outcomes in our state,” said Assemblywoman Speight (D-Essex). “But this endeavor ultimately cannot succeed unless every mother receives the same standards of treatment. That means we have to address the underlying biases that are serving as a barrier to quality healthcare for far too many women of color in New Jersey.”

“As we examine maternal and infant mortality disparities in New Jersey, my colleagues and I have heard some genuinely heart-rending stories that shine a spotlight directly on the role implicit bias plays in impacting the quality of care,” said Assemblywoman Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “We are seeing clear patterns that reveal providers spending less time with patients of color, ignoring their symptoms, dismissing their complaints, and undertreating their pain, putting them at much greater risk of complications. The key to solving this problem lies in understanding that implicit bias means that the provider doesn’t even realize they are treating certain patients differently based on unconscious thought processes. Training to recognize and overcome that is not just necessary, but critical.”

“Every patient deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their race, ethnicity or background,” said Assemblywoman Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “Equality of care can mean the difference between life and death for black women in particular, who are over three times more likely to die during pregnancy, childbirth or after the delivery than white women. Implementing these training programs would help health professionals identify, understand and overcome their biases to help prevent these disparities going forward.”