Black Infants More Likely to Survive if Treated by Black Doctors, Study Finds
Childbirth in the U.S. is simply more dangerous for Black babies. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study published last year, for example, found that Black babies were twice as likely to die before their first birthday when compared with white, Asian and Hispanic babies.
But new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Monday has uncovered a factor that might contribute to this disparity.
"Findings suggest that when Black newborns are cared for by Black physicians, the mortality penalty they suffer, as compared with White infants, is halved," the researchers wrote.
To reach their conclusion, the study authors analyzed the records of 1.8 million Florida hospital births between 1992 and 2015 and discovered the race of the attending physician, The Hill reported. They found that, when the doctor in charge was white, Black babies were three times more likely to die than white babies. But when the doctor was Black, that mortality rate was cut in half.
The effect was strongest in complicated births and in hospitals that delivered more Black infants, the researchers found.
While Black mothers are two to three times more likely to die due to pregnancy complications than white mothers, the researchers found no statistically significant impact of the doctor's race on the mother's chances of survival.
The findings suggest there may be more trust between Black doctors and patients, or that Black doctors may be more aware of the factors that put Black infants at greater risk, lead study author of George Mason University Brad Greenwood told The Guardian.
On the other hand, white doctors may be acting out of unconscious bias when treating Black mothers and babies.
The findings highlight the importance of increasing diversity in the medical field, Greenwood said. Currently, only five percent of U.S. doctors are Black.
"Inasmuch as research suggests stereotyping and implicit bias contribute to racial disparities in health outcomes, the work also highlights the need for hospitals and other care organizations to invest in efforts to reduce such biases and explore their connection to institutional racism," Greenwood told The Guardian.
The findings mirror the experience of doctors in the field. When Black hospital obstetricians were contracted to treat uninsured mothers and babies in Eastern Michigan, the mortality disparity between Black and white babies fell significantly. Black babies were five times more likely to die in 1980 and only 1.4 times more likely to die by the mid to late 1990s.
"As black physicians we attended the same churches, barber shops, beauty salons, our children attended the same schools … this sense of community cultivates an entirely different level of relationship and accountability. The feeling that your provider genuinely cared for you is important … and, in my opinion, is more easily realized when racial concordance and genuine relationship is present," one of the doctors involved, Dr. Arthur James, told The Guardian. "Kudos to the authors for raising an important and often overlooked potential contributor to improved birth outcomes."
Hundreds of endangered sea turtles were stranded on beaches after suffering "cold stunning" in the waters off Cape Cod, Mass. Local rescuers and wildlife rehabilitators stabilized the turtles at the New England Aquarium (NEAQ) and National Marine Life Center and began treatment. Many of the sea turtles were transported by land or air to partner facilities around the Eastern Seaboard for longer-term care to make room for more incoming, cold-stunned animals.
Rehabilitators at The Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys assess critically endangered, cold-stunned Kemp's ridley sea turtles flown in after rescue in New England. The Turtle Hospital<p>NEAQ and local rescuers begin seeing turtles every fall when water temperatures drop to that 50 degrees F threshold, and typically expect to find them into early January. After that, <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/sea-turtle-cape-cod-weather-2621527394.html" target="_self">temperatures are so cold that any animals found are usually no longer alive</a>.</p><p>Merigo estimated that this year's cold season "looks very busy" and noted that local rescue efforts had already surpassed 400 turtles.</p><p>"It is a lot of animals. They're still coming in," she told EcoWatch as she surveyed 39 rescued turtles that day and 20 the day prior. "So far, this is a huge year."</p><p>At NEAQ, the turtles are gradually warmed up about five to 10 degrees F a day. More aggressive warming can cause serious damage and the turtle might not survive, Merigo said. Emergency treatments also include providing replacement fluids, balancing electrolytes and addressing pneumonia. Assessments take place for other serious problems too, such as shell or limb fractures, frostbite, emaciation and eye damage.<span></span></p><p>As local aquariums don't have the capacity to care for all the injured turtles, a group of private pilots called <a href="https://www.turtlesflytoo.org/" target="_blank">"Turtles Fly Too"</a> donated planes, fuel and time to transport some to various partner facilities around the country. Other turtles were driven to closer care facilities.</p><p>"We have a huge network of really great partners working with us, so if we can spread out the care, we can give better care to all the animals," Merigo said.</p><p>The 40 Kemp's ridley sea turtles recovering in The Turtle Hospital will continue to be treated and rehabilitated anywhere from 30 days to a year, depending on the severity of injuries, Zirkelbach said.</p><p>The turtle expert noted that while she's treated cold-stunned turtles from the north before, the newest arrivals were the most cold-stunned Kemp's ridleys ever received at one time.</p>
After rescue, cold-stunned sea turtles received immediate emergency care and assessments at the New England Aquarium. Caitlin Cunningham / New England Aquarium<p>In the past decade, the Gulf of Maine, which spans from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia, has warmed 99 percent faster than the rest of the ocean, Zirkelbach said. The warm water encourages turtles that migrate north along the Gulf Stream in warmer months to stay in the bay longer.</p><p>"Turtles that fail to migrate south get stuck in the unique horseshoe-shaped topography of the Cape Cod peninsula, and when temperatures drop, the bay becomes a death trap," she added.</p><p>Before ocean temperatures warmed, the waters of Maine were too cold for many of these sea turtles, Merigo echoed. Now, with warming sea surface temperatures, Maine can reach the high 70s to low 80s, which is "perfect turtle temperature," she said. The potential for more turtles getting trapped in the bay and then cold-stunned is nerve-racking for Merigo.</p><p>In addition to shifting habitats as waters warm, warming global temperatures also disrupt natural gender balance in sea turtles, Merigo warned. Gender is determined by the temperature of eggs in nests, and as the planet warms, it will result in all females at some point, she said.</p><p>"The turtles we work with are all endangered and threatened," Merigo said. "For sea turtles in general, the future is a little grim. Climate change is real; it does impact them."</p>
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