Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray, D-Wash., today demanded that the Trump health department restore diversity and inclusion trainings for its employees, contractors and grantees. The letter, sent to Health and Human Services (HHS) Department Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan, follows a September executive order that would prohibit trainings that addressed bias on the basis of race or sex across the federal government.
“At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated health inequities among communities of color in this country, it is unconscionable for HHS to systematically dismantle evidenced-based programs that seek to eliminate bias in order to advance President Trump’s divisive political agenda,” the senators wrote. “We urge you to immediately rescind this damaging guidance, restore these important training programs, and put forth solutions to work toward eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities and promote diversity and inclusion at HHS and beyond.”
In the letter, Wyden and Murray outline the importance of these efforts, which combat the well-documented and pervasive racial and ethnic disparities in the health care system. The COVID-19 pandemic has only underscored and deepened health inequities in the United States. Black and Hispanic Americans are three times more likely to contract COVID-19 than their white peers. Some majority-Black counties report mortality rates almost six times those of predominantly white counties.
Since the Reagan administration, it has been well-established within HHS that efforts to reduce health disparities are needed and that the agency is uniquely positioned to take a leadership role. There is also broad agreement among professional medical associations, including the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education that diversity, inclusion and bias training is a necessary part of eliminating health disparities.
The full letter can be found here.
A web version of this release is here.