With striking disparities between the maternal health of white women and women of color in New Jersey, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Shanique Speight, Eliana Pintor Marin and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson requiring certain health care professionals to undergo implicit and explicit bias training was signed into law Tuesday.
The law (formerly bill A-1079/S-703), requires every licensed birthing center and hospital that provides inpatient maternity services to implement a mandatory implicit and explicit bias training program for the professionals who provide perinatal treatment/care and the supportive services staff members who interact with pregnant patients.
While explicit bias is a conscious attitude or belief about others, 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.
The training program will identify barriers to inclusion, unconscious biases and misinformation about perinatal care while providing information and holding discussions on reproductive justice, effective communication with people of various identities, the effects of oppressing minorities, and more.
As a condition of their license or registration renewal, professionals such as physicians, nurses and midwives who provide perinatal care/treatment will also be required to complete at least one credit of educational programs or topics on explicit and implicit bias.
Upon the bill becoming law, 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). “The key to solving this problem lies in understanding that implicit bias means 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 nearly seven times more likely to die from pregnancy than white women. Implementing these training programs will help health professionals identify, understand and overcome their biases to help prevent these disparities going forward.”