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Black Newborns Have Lower Mortality Rates in the Care of Black Doctors, Study Says

“The findings suggest that Black physicians outperform their White colleagues when caring for Black newborns.”
ByNehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
August 20, 2020
black parents kissing their newborn baby's hand
Image: Lumi Nola / Getty Images

According to a new study from George Mason University, black newborns in the United States are three times more likely to die when cared for by a white doctor than a Black doctor.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on August 17, found that the mortality rate for Black newborns was between 39 and 58 percent lower compared to Black babies delivered by white doctors. The study also noted that the race of the doctor didn’t affect mortality rates for white babies.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from 1.8 million birth records in Florida between 1992 and 2015, matching the records with the race of their doctors. They noticed the mortality rates for Black infants were significantly lowered in “more complicated cases,” when in the care of a Black doctor, as well as in hospitals that deliver more Black newborns.

“The findings suggest that Black physicians outperform their White colleagues when caring for Black newborns,” the study authors wrote.

The study’s findings are consistent with the CDC’s data that Black infants have over twice the risk of dying than white infants, as well as their 2019 report, which stated racial disparities continue in pregnancy-related deaths (and maternal health care overall).

"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,” the authors of the study wrote. “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.”

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