One would think that a baby, no matter the race, would get the optimum care at a hospital but that’s sadly not the case. A study has recently shown that black babies fare better, have a better chance of survival when in the care of a black doctor. And according to a CBC News report, “For Black babies, the race of their first doctors can be a matter of life and death.”
Researchers looked at 1.8 million hospital birth records in Florida between 1992 and 2015, and found Black babies were three times more likely to die in hospital than white babies. However, when in the care of a black doctor, this that disparity was cut by 39 to 58 per cent — whether the doctor was providing care before, during or after childbirth. Black babies died at double the rate of white, Asian or Hispanic infants before their first birthday, regardless of the mother’s income or education level (CDC). “The findings suggest that Black physicians outperform their White colleagues when caring for Black newborns,” the study authors wrote.
When it comes to white babies, they receive optimal care regardless of the race of the doctor taking care of them. It’s a sad state of affairs when a black child’s chance of survival is greater when the hospital doctor in charge of their care is also black. This shouldn’t be. Race shouldn’t be a factor when it comes to the doctor or the child. Sadly, it is and why is that? Why is it that in the US, babies of colour face starkly worse clinical outcomes than white newborns? It is believed that unconscious racism among white doctors towards black women and their babies may be at play.
Another factor could be lack of trust between the doctor and the patient. “If you’ve experienced anti-Black racism your whole life, it might be harder to trust a white doctor,” says Dr. Rachel Hardeman, a reproductive health equity researcher and professor at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health. “We’ve heard stories about women feeling disrespected or not heard by their provider. We’ve heard stories around women saying…’I had a toxicology screen run on me for no reason, and I don’t use drugs.'”
What needs to be done about this medical care racism that is putting the lives of innocent black babies in jeopardy? The researchers, from George Mason University, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and Harvard University said that hospitals should analyze their racial biases and health practices. “Taken with this work, it gives warrant for hospitals and other care organizations to invest in efforts to reduce such biases and explore their connection to institutional racism,” they said. “Reducing racial disparities in newborn mortality will also require raising awareness among physicians, nurses, and hospital administrators about the prevalence of racial and ethnic disparities.”
This is a health crisis which needs to be addressed. The lives of black babies’ and in some cases, their mothers’ are at stake because of racism. Data shows that there is the need to better educate all doctors on how to treat people of color. I strongly believe that doctors who do not provide the proper care for babies because of their race, should be charged with criminal negligence and have their licenses to practice taken away. Racism, no matter where it and how it is expressed, should be treated as a hate crime.