APTQI Applauds Introduction of the Bipartisan Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act

If passed, the bipartisan bill would fund new educational opportunities to help diversify the physical, occupational, and speech therapy workforces

Washington, D.C. –– The Alliance for Physical Therapy Quality and Innovation (APTQI) today praised lawmakers for recently introducing the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act (H.R. 3320/ S. 1679). Sponsored by U.S. Representatives Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), along with U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the bipartisan bill will increase the diversity of America’s healthcare workforce, including the therapy community. If enacted, the legislation would provide grant funding to higher education institutions to make physical therapy, occupational therapy, respiratory therapy, audiology, and speech-language pathology programs more accessible to underrepresented communities, including racial and ethnic minorities.

“As physical, occupational, and speech therapists, we strongly believe in enhancing the diversity of our community in order to continue providing high quality compassionate care to all Americans who need it,” said Heidi Jannenga, Co-Chair of the APTQI DEI Steering Committee. “By making investments in new educational opportunities for racial and ethnic minorities, the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act will go a long way to ensuring our field better reflects our country at large. Not only is embracing diversity the right thing to do; it will also help improve patient outcomes and chip away at inequities that have long plagued communities of color.”

According to a 2017 analysis by the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA), more than three-quarters (77%) of professionals in the physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology fields are Caucasian. Overall, less than 5% of professionals in these fields identified as Black and less than 7% identified as Hispanic, underscoring the need to create more opportunities in the professional pipeline. Increasing the diversity of the therapy workforce is also critical for improving patients’ health. When a patient sees a healthcare provider of the same racial or ethnic background, they are more likely to have better health outcomes, according to the U.S. Institute of Medicine.

“The bill complements efforts APTQI has undertaken in recent years to invest in future leaders of diverse backgrounds,” continued Jannenga. “We fully support the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act and urge Congress to quickly pass it into law.”

The APTQI most recently created a DEI Steering Committee which recognizes that inequities and social injustice have enabled a lack of diversity in the physical, occupational and speech therapy professions.  The Steering Committee will create and support initiatives that will empower APTQI member companies to promote diversity in the workforce, equity in the workplace and inclusion in the communities in which they serve.

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