Black premature babies face racial disparities in healthcare, study says
The prematurely born infants are subjected to a series of factors that put them at a disadvantage when it comes to health care
Black preemies face higher chances that they will receive poor prenatal care than white, Asian-American and Hispanic babies, and this is partially due to the quality of their parents’ healthcare as well as segregation, according to a JAMA Pediatrics study released last week.
The study looked at black newborn babies born prematurely or with low birth weights at 700 neonatal intensive care units, according to UPI.
“Our results provide evidence for segregation and inequality in the care of very low-birth-weight and very preterm infants,” researchers wrote in the study. “Compared with white infants, Black infants received care at lower-quality NICUs and Asian infants at higher-quality NICUs after accounting for region of residence.”
“Black, Hispanic, and Asian very low-birth-weight and very preterm infants are segregated across NICUs reflecting the uneven distribution of minority populations in the United States,” the study continues. “Explaining these patterns will require understanding the effects of sociodemographic factors and public policy on hospital quality, access, and choice for minority women and their infants.”
In the study, researchers looked at the quality of care newborns receive at NICUs including death while under care, lung disease, bacterial or fungal infections, and cases of babies developing hypothermia, and the results were all worse for Black preemies. The study revealed that Black preemies represented more than a third of all infants in the lowest-ranked NICUs (out of the 700). This compares to roughly 20 percent of babies at the highly-ranked NICUs, according to UPI.
In terms of rationale for the disparity among how infants fare in NICUs, researchers found the quality of insurance, the location of the hospital and the patient’s immigration status, among key contributors to the dismal prenatal and neonatal care outcomes. Further, although 10 percent of babies born in the U.S. are premature, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, another study said Black women have double the risk of having a preemie compared to whites.
More concerning is the study found that the negative effects facing many of these Black preemies will continue long after they are born. Researchers found that premature babies who get inadequate care often go on to develop neurodevelopment impairments.