APTA-supported legislation to encourage greater diversity in physical therapy programs has cleared an important hurdle: this week, the US House of Representatives passed a bill that would appropriate additional federal money for scholarships and stipends for students from underrepresented populations. Next stop—the US Senate.
The bill that passed the House unanimously, called the “Educating Medical Professionals and Optimizing Workforce Efficiency and Readiness for Health Act” ( HR 2781) broadly focuses on educational issues in health care. Included in that bill was the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act of 2019, a bill that specifically targets education programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy, audiology, and speech-language pathology. The diversity act was sponsored by Reps Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and strongly supported by APTA.
The diversity act would provide grants for use by accredited education programs in physical therapy, occupational, therapy, audiology, and speech-language pathology. The funds would allow programs to issue scholarships or stipends to students from racial and ethnic minorities, as well as to students from disadvantaged backgrounds including economic status and disability. That bill was included in its entirety as part of the broader health care education package.