Listen To The Story

Not all infants receive equal care in neonatal intensive care units. New research out of Stanford finds African-American and Hispanic infants in California were more likely than white infants to receive low-quality care.

Given the findings, it’s tempting to think the root of the problem is racial discrimination. Not so, said lead author Dr. Jochen Profit.

“Our research is not uncovering racial bias,” Profit said. “I would say that very clearly.”

The findings show white infants tend to get higher-quality care in the NICU than others, but the pattern is not uniform. The study found black babies cared for in California NICUs grew more quickly and had less chronic lung disease than whites.

University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Scott Lorch, who does similar research, said race and socio-economic status often overlap, which may be a factor here.

“You really need to understand what those drivers are of these difference to make meaningful change,” Lorch said.

Racial disparities aside, what is clear is that some NICU units are performing above and beyond best practices, Profit said.

If there’s anything encouraging in this research, it’s that the paper highlights what some hospitals do well. For instance, they encourage infants to breastfeed, give them eye exams and administer steroids before birth to help mature their lungs. The hope is to try and replicate that for all.

“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VA

As a nonprofit news organization, what matters to us is the same thing that matters to you: being a source for trustworthy, independent news that makes people smarter about business and the economy. So if Marketplace has helped you understand the economy better, make more informed financial decisions or just encouraged you to think differently, we’re asking you to give a little something back.

Become a Marketplace Investor today – in whatever amount is right for you – and keep public service journalism strong. We’re grateful for your support.

Follow Dan Gorenstein at @dmgorenstein