A new study by researchers at George Mason University, the University of Minnesota, and Harvard Business School finds that the infant mortality rate for Black babies is far lower when the attending physician at the birth is Black. This is extremely important due to the fact that in the United States, Black newborns die at three times the rate of White newborns.
Researchers examined 1.8 million hospital births in the state of Florida between 1992 and 2015. They found that newborn–physician racial concordance is associated with a significant reduction in the mortality rate for Black infants. The authors report that “Black infants experience inferior health outcomes regardless of who is treating them. However, clinical penalties for Black newborns treated by Black physicians are halved compared with the penalties Black newborns experience when cared for by White physicians.”
Their results also showed that these benefits manifest during more challenging births and in hospitals that deliver more Black babies. The authors found no significant improvement in maternal mortality rates when birthing mothers were of the same race as their attending physician.
The authors conclude that “for families giving birth to a Black baby, the desire to minimize risk and seek care from a Black physician would be understandable. However, the disproportionately White physician workforce makes this untenable because there are too few Black physicians to service the entire population. Moreover, it avoids the foundational concern of resolving the disparities in care offered by White physicians. Finally, it is important to note that physician performance varies widely among physicians of both races, suggesting that exclusively selecting on physician race is not an effective solution to mortality concerns.”
The full study, “Physician-Patient Racial Concordance and Disparities in Birthing Mortality for Newborns,” was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. It may be accessed here.