Race/Ethnicity Shown to Factor Into Quality of Care in NICU

It may not be intentional, but there's room for improvement, researchers find

mother and newborn

TUESDAY, Aug. 29, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Race and ethnicity may be factors in the quality of care a premature baby receives in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), according to a study published online Aug. 28 in Pediatrics.

Jochen Profit, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of pediatrics with the Stanford University School of Medicine in California, and colleagues reviewed data on premature births in the state of California. They included 18,616 babies born with very low birth weight -- less than 3.3 pounds -- between 2010 and 2014. The research team evaluated the NICU care each newborn received based on a set of nine yes/no questions. These included whether anyone died as a result of the birth, whether the infant experienced health issues such as infections or chronic lung disease, how quickly the newborn grew in the NICU, and whether the baby received a timely eye exam.

Top-quality hospitals in California tend to deliver better care to white babies compared with black or Hispanic newborns, the researchers found. In addition, black and Hispanic infants are more likely than white newborns to receive care at poor-quality NICUs. However, the researchers also found that some California hospitals provided better care to minority babies than white infants.

"The reasons for this finding require more study but may include biological vulnerability, unmeasured social risk, or care delivery in settings primarily serving vulnerable populations," the authors write.

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