The United States has the highest rate of infant deaths in the developed world with that rate being even higher if you are a Black mother. According to the CDC, Black mothers are almost four times more likely to die during childbirth. Now, a new study shows that Black newborns are safest when they are in the hands of Black doctors over their white counterparts.
A study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that newborn Black babies are more likely to survive if delivered by Black doctors from analyzing more than 1 million births over the span of several decades. The findings show that there is a 58% reduction in the racial mortality difference between newborns in the care of Black doctors versus white doctors.
“In the United States, Black newborns die at three times the rate of white newborns,” the study said. “Results examining 1.8 million hospital births in the state of Florida between 1992 and 2015 suggest that newborn–physician racial concordance is associated with a significant improvement in mortality for Black infants. 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 the race with their physician.”
“Consistent with extant research, we see a large mortality penalty for Black newborns. In the sample, the raw mortality rate is 289 per 100,000 births among the 1.35 million white newborns and is 784 per 100,000 births among the 0.46 million Black newborns,” the study added
The study goes on to highlight systemic racism and inherent bias as some of the factors behind the disparities. “Extant research indicates that mortality across White and Black newborns is starkly different, suggesting Black newborns may have different needs and be more medically challenging to treat due to social risk factors and cumulative racial and socioeconomic disadvantages of Black pregnant women,” the study wrote.
“To the extent that physicians of a social outgroup are more likely to be aware of the challenges and issues that arise when treating their group, it stands to reason that these physicians may be more equipped to treat patients with complex needs.”