New research has shown that Melanated babies, specifically newborn babies, are more likely to survive childbirth if they are cared for by Melanated doctors, and are three times more likely to die when looked after by Caucasian doctors. A new study’s results show the shocking racial disparities in human health can affect even the first hours of a person’s life. The benefits of patient–physician concordance on clinical care outcomes for underrepresented minorities, arguing it can ameliorate outgroup biases, boost communication, and increase trust. In a setting where racial disparities are particularly severe: childbirth. In the United States, Melanated newborns die at three times the rate of Caucasian newborns. 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 Melanated infants. Results further suggest that these benefits manifest during more challenging births and in hospitals that deliver more Melanated babies. We find no significant improvement in maternal mortality when birthing mothers share race with their physician. While the authors of the study did not go into the reasoning behind the polarizing number, they did write: “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.” In all, more than 22,000 babies died before their first birthday in 2017, at a rate of 5.79 infant deaths per 1,000 births, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That rate is 16% lower than in 2005 – when the country saw its most recent peak in infant mortality – but essentially unchanged from the rate in 2016. But whose children are most likely to survive until their first birthday varies greatly. The infant mortality rate for Melanated women’s babies was 10.97 in 2017 – nearly three times the rates among Caucasian, Asian and Hispanic women, which matches with the George Mason University findings – and nearly double the overall rate. While more than a third of infant deaths were tied to preterm birth, when a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, and even though the preterm birth rate has fallen in recent years, Melanated women are more likely to give birth preterm, according to the CDC. According to CNN.com, a report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which covered the period between 2000 to 2017 and was published in June, found that Black infants still have more than twice the risk of dying as White infants. To meaningfully improve the health of babies, the CDC says public health organizations, health care providers, community groups and other partners should work together to “address the social, behavioral, and health risk factors that contribute to infant mortality and affect birth outcomes.”