×
Black Newborns Three Times More Likely To Die When Looked After By White Doctors, Claims Study

Black Newborns Three Times More Likely To Die When Looked After By White Doctors, Claims Study

The study found that the doctor's race did not seem to have an effect on the mortality rate for White babies.

Cover Image Source: Getty Images (representative)

Black newborn babies in the United States are three times more likely than White Babies to die when looked after by White doctors, a study conducted by researchers from George Mason University has found. The research also found that the mortality rate of Black newborns in hospital shrunk by between 39 percent and 58 percent when Black physicians were in charge of the birth. Although researchers did not identify a particular reason for this worrisome disparity, they recommend that hospitals invest time and resources to survey the connection between institutional racism and newborn mortality rates.

 



 

According to CNN, researchers from George Mason University analyzed data capturing 1.8 million hospital births in Florida between 1992 and 2015 for their study, which was published on Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). While this analysis found that Black newborns have better chances of surviving childbirth when cared for by Black doctors, the doctor's race did not seem to have an effect on the mortality rate for White babies. These findings support previous research on the subject, which has shown that — while infant mortality rates have fallen in recent decades — Black children are significantly more likely to die earlier than their White counterparts.

 



 

"Recent work has emphasized the benefits of patient-physician concordance on clinical care outcomes for underrepresented minorities, arguing it can ameliorate outgroup biases, boost communication, and increase trust. We explore concordance in a setting where racial disparities are particularly severe: childbirth," states the study. "Results further suggest that these benefits manifest during more challenging births and in hospitals that deliver more Black babies. We find no significant improvement in maternal mortality when birthing mothers share race with their physician."

 



 

 



 

Sharing the findings of their research on Twitter, co-author Rachel Hardeman tweeted: "Our study provides the first evidence that the Black-White newborn mortality gap is smaller when Black MDs provide care for Black newborns than when White MDs do, lending support to research examining the importance of racial concordance in addressing health care inequities... Black babies have been dying at disproportionate rates since as long as we've collected data. The time is now to change this and to ensure that Black infants are afforded the opportunity to thrive."

 



 

 



 

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Minority Health, it's already known that Black infants have 2.3 times the infant mortality rate as White infants and are 3.8 times as likely to die from complications related to low birth weight as compared to their White counterparts. "Strikingly, these effects appear to manifest more strongly in more complicated cases, and when hospitals deliver more Black newborns," the authors wrote. "The findings suggest that Black physicians outperform their White colleagues when caring for Black newborns."

 



 

Although the authors did not speculate about the reasons behind this worrisome pattern, they wrote: "Taken with this work, it gives warrant for hospitals and other care organizations to invest in efforts to reduce such biases and explore their connection to institutional racism. Reducing racial disparities in newborn mortality will also require raising awareness among physicians, nurses, and hospital administrators about the prevalence of racial and ethnic disparities." The little research available on the correlation between race and healthcare has provided indisputable proof that it can mean the difference between life and death for Black families. It stands to reason that more studies need to be conducted on how systemic racism exists in the healthcare industry.

 



 

Recommended for you