Implicit bias is the unconscious and negative stereotyping of a group of people. It is the culmination of what society directly and indirectly teaches its children and chooses to continue as social conditioning. This negative bias has routine unintended negative consequences for certain groups across the nation, and certainly in Michigan.

For example, in Michigan, infant mortality (death rate of a baby newborn up to a year old per 1,000 births) significantly differs between racial groups. Specifically, African American infants had a 3 ½ times greater infant mortality rate than white infants in 2015-2017. The current situation for maternal health is not one suited for a developed country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that it is estimated that 700-900 new mothers die after giving birth and close to 500,000 suffer from near-death post-pregnancy complications. African American women are three to four times more likely to die during or after delivery than are white women.
The CDC states that about half of the maternal deaths and about half of the near-death situations are from preventable issues and that the women affected are disproportionately black. Clearly we are in the midst of a health crisis.

Two things need to be looked at to change this situation: the overriding factor at play: lack of health equity and the constant force at play in the vast majority of the situations: implicit bias. Looking at and improving access so that everyone has an equal opportunity to be healthy (access to safe communities, good schools, good medical care for a healthy baseline) along with the formation of a strongly connected and dedicated network for perinatal, maternal, and pediatric care will go far to help the situation in general. This is part of the mission of MiHIA and we have numerous initiatives working on improvements to general population health, stronger and healthier communities, more education opportunities, and a stronger economy.

Examining implicit bias in healthcare is imperative considering the crisis at hand. ”Looking at statistics relating to perceptions of pain and medical care related to race, medical professionals need to respond to the crisis. The audience was encouraged to utilize some tools to assess how this could be in play in their medical practice, hospital, or at their insurance network. At both PQC summits, audiences were receptive to this issue with its enormous implications. “Slides were shared by Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance about how to start the conversation about implicit biases and health equity. Lots of participants took photos of these slides and also requested the speaker’s contact information for future events,” said Shanna Hensler, Initiative Leader for the Region 5 Perinatal Quality Collaborative (PQC) for MiHIA.

As this is a healthcare crisis that has been unfolding for decades, this will remain a topic, especially for the PQC initiative. More work has to be completed to tackle this problem and it needs to be a top priority. MiHIA will continue to address and educate the community on this paramount issue.

For more information: please contact Shanna Hensler at s.hensler@mihia.org