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Ohio state senator revives bill requiring culture classes for health workers

A newly elected Ohio Democratic state senator has become the latest to push a legislative proposal that would require “cultural competency” classes for healthcare workers. The proposed law, Senate Bill 60, would apply to a wide variety of state-licensed or -certified professionals, including physicians, nurses, dentists, optometrists and pharmacists.

A newly elected Ohio Democratic state senator has become the latest to push a legislative proposal that would require “cultural competency” classes for healthcare workers.

The proposed law, Senate Bill 60, would apply to a wide variety of state-licensed and -certified professionals, including physicians, nurses, dentists, optometrists and pharmacists.

The latest proposal marks the fourth time in roughly seven years that the “cultural competency” classes law has been introduced. This time around, Sen. Charleta Tavares, D-Columbus, is the bill’s sponsor.

“Understanding the race, culture and ethnicity of the population you’re serving ensures that you’re providing the most appropriate service for that individual,” Tavares said.

Most of the details of what the culture classes would focus on is left up to the state boards that license or certify workers in each profession. In order to receive or renew their state licenses, physicians, dentists and the like would be required to complete the classes.

In creating instruction materials for the classes, boards are to “consider the problems of race- and gender-based disparities in healthcare treatment decisions,” according to the proposal. Boards would also be required to consult with professional organizations that review healthcare curricula.

What isn’t clear is how much improving health workers’ cultural competency actually improves patient outcomes. There’s yet to be a clinical trial showing that it does.

The Ohio State Medical Association, which represents the state’s physicians, has opposed the bill in the past. “We think that opportunities already exist to get this information and if it fits within their practice mix, doctors will get it,” Tim Maglione, OSMA’s senior director of governmental relations, said last time the bill was introduced.

Doctors generally oppose “cultural competence” laws but some states have implemented them in some form, including California and New Jersey.

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