A new study shows that Black babies born in the United States are more likely to survive childbirth when they are in the care of a Black doctor, CNN reports. They are also three times more likely to die when a white doctor is charged with their care.
The mortality rate of Black newborns shrunk by between 39 percent and 58 percent when Black physicians took charge of the birth, according to the research, which laid bare how shocking racial disparities in human health can affect even the first hours of a person’s life.
By contrast, the mortality rate for white babies was largely unaffected by the doctor’s race.
In order to conduct the study, which was published on Monday (August 17) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers from George Mason University studied data from 1.8 million hospital births in Florida between 1992 and 2015, according to CNN.
The group’s findings support past research showing that, although infant mortality rates have fallen over the past several decades, Black babies have a significantly higher risk of dying young than their white peers.
According to CNN:
When cared for by white physicians, Black newborns were about three times more likely to die in the hospital than white newborns, the researchers found.
“Strikingly, these effects appear to manifest more strongly in more complicated cases, and when hospitals deliver more Black newborns,” the report’s authors said in a statement obtained by CNN. “The findings suggest that Black physicians outperform their white colleagues when caring for Black newborns.”
The researchers didn’t dig into the reasons behind these disparities, but they made it a point to say, “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 researchers added, “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.”