Federal health officials are putting millions into a new effort to train future doctors on how to better care for individuals with developmental disabilities.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration is awarding $8 million to 18 different medical training programs across the nation in order to improve care of those with physical or intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as individuals with limited English proficiency.

The funding will go toward training for primary care medical students, physician assistant students and medical residents, officials said.

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“By helping medical schools and primary care residency programs build trainees’ skills and give them hands-on experience caring for individuals with physical or developmental disabilities and individuals with limited English proficiency, we are investing in building a workforce that matches what communities need,” said Carole Johnson, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration.

Limited training on how to treat patients with developmental disabilities has been a persistent problem in health care, with a 2022 study finding that just 41% of physicians considered themselves able to provide people with disabilities with a level of care similar to others.

After years of pressure from the disability community, the presidents of the American Medical Association and the American Dental Association said just last year that they would work to expand disability training for medical and dental students, but efforts to add requirements to medical school curricula have so far been unsuccessful.

Award recipients will use the funding to focus on training new health care providers in treating those with disabilities, limited English proficiency or both, officials said.

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