Black newborn mortality rate cut in half when cared by Black physicians

Black newborns die at triple the rate of white newborns, but that disparity is cut in half when they're cared for by Black doctors, according to a study published Aug. 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers analyzed 1.8 million hospital births occurring in Florida from 1992 to 2015. The findings suggest that newborn-physician racial concordance is associated with a significant improvement in mortality for Black infants. Furthermore, the effects appear to manifest more strongly in more complicated cases and when hospitals deliver more Black newborns. No such improvement was seen in maternal mortality when birthing mothers share race with their physician.

"A large body of work has highlighted the fact that Black newborns are significantly more likely to die during birth than white newborns," said Brad Greenwood, PhD, lead study author and associate professor of information systems and operations management sciences at Fairfax, Va.-based George Mason University. "These results underscore the need to investigate the drivers of such behavior to gain a better understanding of the reasons why Black physicians systematically outperform their white colleagues when caring for Black newborns at the individual, team, and institutional level."

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