Murkowski, Casey Introduce Bill to Diversify Allied Health Workforce

Yesterday, U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act, which would make the fields of allied health workers more representative of the populations they serve. The legislation would create a $5 million per year grant program to recruit a more diverse body of professionals in the allied health fields.  Allied health professionals include occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists and audiologists.

“As the nation struggles with healthcare provider shortages, perhaps no one feels that more than rural areas such as Alaska. Across our state, our communities could benefit from a more robust workforce, particularly in fields such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech language pathology, and audiology,” said Senator Murkowski. “I’ve been working hard to move legislation that will improve the quality and availability of healthcare, including bills to improve recruitment and retention of health care professionals. Building on those efforts, I’m proud to lead this bill that will afford more Alaskans a greater opportunity to pursue these valuable careers and to bring that knowledge back to their communities.”

“Having a diverse, abundant and well-trained health care workforce is essential to improving quality of care,” said Senator Casey. “In order to ensure our health care delivery system is successful, we must make allied health training programs as successful as possible. A characteristic of a successful program is a diverse student body. This is why I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation which will work towards creating a truly diverse field of allied health professionals.”

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), the population of people treated by allied health professionals is far more diverse than the professionals treating them. AOTA found that 92 percent of occupational therapists identified as Caucasian whereas only 3.1 percent identified as African-American, 3.2 identified as Hispanic and 1.4 identified as multi-ethnic. A report from the Institutes of Medicine found that patients who receive treatment from professionals of similar ethnic background often trust their therapists more and follow through on their treatment.

Organizations Supporting the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act:  University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Pennsylvania Physical Therapy Association, American Physical Therapy Association, National Black Association of Speech-Language and Hearing, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, American Occupational Therapy Association, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Multicultural Diversity & Inclusion Networks, Alaska Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Alaska Physical Therapy Association, University of Alaska Anchorage College of Health, Occupational Therapy Network for Native Americans, Terapia Ocupacional para Diversidad, Oportunidada y Solidaridad, Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity, National Black Occupational Therapy Caucus and the American Academy of Physical Therapy.

To read the full Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act, here.

Related Issues: Health