Study Finds That a Black Doctor Lessens the Infant Mortality Rate for Black Babies

In the United States, Black newborns die at three times the rate of White newborns. However, new research from the scholars at the University of Minnesota, George Mason University, and Harvard University finds that Black newborns’ in-hospital death rate is a third lower when Black newborns are cared for by Black physicians rather than White physicians.

For the study, 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 improvement in mortality for Black infants. Results further suggest that these benefits manifest during more challenging births and in hospitals that deliver more Black babies.

The authors conclude that the size of this mortality rate reduction would correspond to preventing the in-hospital deaths of about 1,400 Black newborns nationally each year.

“Our findings demonstrate that when newborns and the physicians treating them are of the same race, that newborn survival rate is significantly improved,” said study co-author Rachel Hardeman, an associate professor in the School of Public Health and the Blue Cross Endowed Professor in Health and Racial Equity at the University of Minnesota. “This study is the first piece of evidence that demonstrates the effect of physician-patient racial concordance on the Black-White mortality gap. As we seek to close persistent racial gaps in birth outcomes, this finding is incredibly important.”

Dr. Hardeman is a graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans, where she double majored in chemistry and Spanish. She holds a master of public health degree and a Ph.D. in health policy and management from the University of Minnesota. Dr. Hardeman joined the faculty at the University of Minnesota in 2016.

The full study, “Physician-Patient Racial Concordance and Disparities in Birthing Mortality for Newborns,” was published on the website of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It may be accessed here.

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