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Study: Black newborns more likely to survive when cared for by Black doctors

Study: Black newborns more likely to survive when cared for by Black doctors
© iStock, The Hill photo illustration

Black newborns are more likely to survive during childbirth when cared for by Black doctors, according to a study published Monday.

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that Black babies were three times more likely to die in the hospital than white newborns when cared for by white doctors. When Black doctors cared for Black babies, the mortality rate was cut in half.

The largest decrease in Black newborn mortality rate occurred “strikingly” in complex births and in hospitals that deliver more Black babies, according to the researchers.

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The race of the doctor caring for white babies did not make much difference to the likelihood of survival.

Researchers for the study analyzed 1.8 million hospital birth records in Florida between 1992 and 2015 and determined the race of the doctors responsible for each infant. 

The researchers concluded the difference in mortality rates can be attributed to “racial concordance between the physician and newborn patient.”

The study found no statistically significant connection between the risk of maternal mortality and the race of the mother’s doctor. 

The research follows a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study from last year that found Black babies were more than twice as likely to die before their first birthday, even when statistically controlling for a mother’s income or education level.

While infant mortality rates overall have declined in the U.S., the disparity between white and Black infant mortality rates has grown.

The U.S. is only ahead of three other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries for infant mortality: Mexico, Turkey and Chile. More than 22,000 infant deaths were reported in 2017 before they reached their first birthday, and Black babies died at double the rate of white, Asian or Latin infants, according to the CDC.