Among thousands of bills introduced since the beginning of this year’s legislative term, one has swiftly made its way to the governor’s desk with a unanimous yes vote from members of both the Assembly (79-0) and Senate (39-0).
Introduced by Assemblyman Avelino Valencia (D-Anaheim), Assembly Bill 470 (AB 470) is a Latino Caucus Priority bill which creates standards for new Continuing Medical Education (CME) courses to align with federal and state threshold language requirements. The bill aims to improve the ability of physicians to communicate with patients for whom English is not their primary language—physician or patient.
AB 470 outlines the development of new CME courses by authorizing associations that accredit CME courses to update standards, should they choose to, in conjunction with an advisory group that has expertise in cultural and linguistic competency issues, informed by federal and state language thresholds. The advisory group would prioritize languages in proportion to the state population’s most prevalent languages spoken by 10% or more of the state population. The measure seeks to “remedy the disparity between the number of California physicians who speak foreign languages and the patient populations whose first language is not English,” according to the author.
According to a UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative report, nearly 44% of Californians speak a language other than English at home. AB 470 underscores the need to provide physicians with the opportunity to take newer courses that can help them eliminate language barriers and better understand their patient populations.¹
A variety of factors may be what took this bill swiftly to the governor's desk for his signature before the end of the legislative term. The bill singled out a very relevant issue, making it easy to find the right allies and create a consensus.
Even if approved by the governor and enacted, there is no guarantee that a CME accreditor will update standards to comply with CME laws and requirements, so this bill merely suggests what an entity must do should they choose to update standards. But this being California, it would seem like a good idea.
Gabriela Villanueva is CAP’s Government and External Affairs Analyst. Questions or comments related to this article should be directed to GVillanueva@CAPphysicians.com.
¹Hsu, Paul et al. California's Language Concordance Mismatch: Clear Evidence for Increasing Physician Diversity. UCLA. September 2018. https://latino.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/AltaMed-Policy-Brief-1.pdf