Black newborns die less when treated by Black doctors rather than white doctors, U of M study finds

A new study from the University of Minnesota found that Black newborns die less when treated by Black doctors rather than white doctors. 

The study, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, examined 1.8 million hospital births in Florida between 1992 and 2015. 

Black newborns in the U.S. die at three times the rate of white newborns, however, researchers found the death rate for Black newborns in the hospital is one-third lower when they are cared for by Black physicians rather than white physicians, according to a news release. That reduction in mortality rate corresponds to preventing the deaths of about 1,400 Black newborns in the hospital 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,” 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, said in a statement. “This study is the first piece of evidence that demonstrates the effect of physician-patient racial concordance on the Black-white mortality gap.”

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota, Harvard University and George Mason University. 

Researchers say additional investigation is needed into what is driving the gap between Black and white physicians when caring for Black newborns.