by Alexis Barton
On September 30, Roanoke students Lily Harmison and Tim Hofstaetter had the opportunity to meet with a legislative champion in preparation for a new healthcare bill being presented to the General Assembly in January 2023. Delegate Chris Head, who represented Botetourt County, Roanoke County, and Roanoke City in the 17th District, has spearheaded a bill regarding cultural competency and implicit bias in healthcare. This upcoming January will mark the second time that the bill will be presented on the floor of Virginia’s General Assembly. After its presentation in 2022, the bill was sent to a subcommittee for further review. Despite the failure of the bill in its initial attempt at becoming law, the bill serves an integral role in the future of healthcare in Virginia.
The bill, HB 1105, is officially titled “Practitioners, licensed; continuing education related to implicit bias and cultural competency”. In layman’s terms, the bill addresses the issues of implicit bias in medicine that may lead to different treatment of racial groups, genders, and other minority groups. The issue of implicit bias is significant particularly within the area of maternal care, as Black mothers are three times more likely to die during childbirth compared to their white counterparts (CDC, 2022). The bill would require licensed healthcare practitioners in the state to take two hours of continuing education courses about cultural competency and implicit bias.
Harmison and Hofstaetter both work alongside a team of fellows in the Center for Spiritual Life and Campus Ministry on campus under the supervision of Chaplain Chris Bowen. Their student-led team is dedicated to creating awareness for social justice issues that impact the Roanoke community in unique ways, such as voter registration and climate justice. The team is working alongside the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy to draw attention to maternal healthcare reform and will be hosting throughout the year both to create awareness and to express student support of the bill in Virginia.
More information about the status of HB 1105 can be found at www.lis.virginia.gov