APTA's efforts to create a physical therapy profession as diverse as the society it serves could be getting a significant legislative boost: a new bill introduced in the US House of Representatives seeks to provide $5 million per year in scholarships and stipends aimed at increasing the number of students from underrepresented populations in physical therapy and other allied health education programs.
Introduced by Reps Bobby Rush (IL) and Cathy McMorris Rogers (WA), the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act of 2019 would set aside money in the Health Resources and Services Administration specifically for use by accredited education programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy, audiology, and speech-language pathology. Those programs would in turn issue scholarships or stipends to students from underrepresented populations including racial or ethnic minorities and students from disadvantaged backgrounds including economic status and disability. APTA, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), and the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) were instrumental in crafting language for the bill.
The legislation falls squarely in line with APTA's strategic plan, which identifies greater provider diversity as necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of the physical therapy profession.
"We must build a diverse profession by ensuring there are opportunities that allow for inclusion of all individuals who want to become physical therapists and physical therapist assistants," said APTA President Sharon Dunn, PT, PhD, in a joint news release issued by APTA, AOTA, ASHA, and AAA. "The population we serve is evolving and becoming more diverse. We know that patients who receive care from providers who share their racial and ethnic backgrounds tend to respond better to treatment. That's one reason this legislation is so important, and we applaud the representatives who have introduced it."
APTA government affairs staff will track the bill's progress and share opportunities for grassroots advocacy. The association will add information to its Legislative Action Center later this week for members to use to support the legislation.