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Study: Black infant mortality rate cut dramatically when Black doctors provide care

A new study has found that although Black newborns are three times as likely to die as white newborns, when the doctor of record for Black newborns — primarily pediatricians, neonatologists and family practitioners — was also Black, their mortality rate, as compared with white newborns, was cut in half (Source: “Mortality rate for Black babies is cut dramatically when Black doctors care for them after birth, researchers say,” Washington Post, Jan. 13)

The new study of births in Florida by University of Minnesota School of Public Health researchers found an association, not a cause and effect, and the researchers said more studies are needed to understand what effect, if any, a doctor’s race might have on infant mortality.

The researchers cautioned that it wasn’t practical for all Black families to seek Black doctors to care for their babies, not only because there are too few of them, but also because the reasons for the disparity in care need to be understood and addressed.

In a New England Journal of Medicine opinion article from July, one of the study’s authors wrote that, “We believe that medical schools and training programs should equip every clinician, in every role, to address racism. And licensing, accreditation and qualifying procedures should test this knowledge as an essential professional competency.”

This could include mandating education about implicit bias and social justice, which can better prepare doctors of any race to properly treat at-risk patients, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds or race. Medical schools have come under increasing pressure to include such education and counteract training that in the past wrongly taught doctors that there were genetic differences among different races.