From Kendall to Key West, one of the top concerns I hear from my constituents is the urgent need to lower the cost and increase the quality of health care. Their stories are the reason I fight to protect children and adults with pre-existing conditions and why Last year, the House passed and sent over 400 bills to the U.S. Senate – 275 which were bipartisan – including H.R. 3, to address the ever-growing cost of prescription drugs. But in a district as diverse as Florida’s 26th, we have to do more to ensure that every person can get the quality care they need - no matter their race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age or language background.
That’s why I partnered with my colleague, Rep. Katie Porter (CA-45), to introduce the Medical Education for a Diverse America Act. This bill would give medical school residents the opportunity to take courses in cultural competency and give them training in linguistically appropriate service delivery.
By providing our future physicians with this training, we can help them combat their unconscious biases and empower them to provide care in a manner that is sensitive to the culture of their patients. This legislation would be a game-changer for not only the patients in South Florida but for patients in
diverse communities across the country.
As a young girl, my earliest memories include watching my mother work double shifts as a home health care provider. Seeing the importance of my mother’s work inspired me to focus on breaking down the barriers
between health care and the people who often need it the most but lack access. As an Associate Dean at Florida International University’s College of Medicine, I helped establish the Green Family Foundation’s NeighborhoodHELP program to bring mobile health clinics directly into underserved communities in South Florida to provide care. I saw firsthand the positive effect that
culturally competent, empathetic, and direct care could have on a person wanting to get healthy.
We know that Latinos are more likely to report poor communication with their health provider and studies have shown that African American patients are often prescribed less pain medication than white patients who have the same health issues. Additionally, Black women are three to four times more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death than white women and we see time and time again minority patients with heart problems being referred to advanced procedures less often than white patients with the same complaints.
While technological advances in the medical field have led to health care gains for patients, those advances have not closed the persistent ethnic and racial health disparities in communities of color. Yes, structural bias plays a role in this, but research shows that the unconscious bias of even the most well-intentioned health care professionals can exacerbate these disparities. But imagine if technological advances and medical expertise were coupled with the
training provided in the Medical Education for a Diverse American Act, then perhaps we would start to change this.
In order to achieve health equity, we have to ensure that the doctors and health professionals have all the cultural and language competence needed to provide excellent care. We also have to make sure that institutions across the country implement these programs. Through this legislation, we have the opportunity to begin to change the health outcomes that will have far-reaching and generational change for communities. And it starts with programs like this. This legislation is a critical step forward in ensuring that all Americans, regardless of who they are or where they come from, are receiving the same quality care when they visit their doctor.
I am committed to fighting for this bill and others that will help us achieve full health equity in South Florida and nationwide.
Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D) represents the FL-26 district