March 26 (UPI) -- Black newborns are receiving poor healthcare and segregation may be to blame, a new study says.
Premature babies born to black women have a higher risk of receiving poor prenatal care than white, Asian-American and Hispanic babies, according to a study published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.
The study focused on babies born prematurely or at extremely low birth weights at 700 neonatal intensive care units.
"Our results provide evidence for segregation and inequality in the care of very low-birth-weight and very preterm infants," researchers wrote in the study. "Compared with white infants, black infants received care at lower-quality NICUs and Asian infants at higher-quality NICUs after accounting for region of residence."
The researchers gauged the quality of care at NICUs based risk factors for the babies that included death while in care, developing bacterial or fungal infections, having lung disease or a collapsed lung; developing hypothermia.
They discovered that black premature babies accounted for more than a third of all infants in low-ranked NICUs compared to only about 20 percent of babies at the highly-ranked NICUs.
While the study doesn't include specific reasons for this disparity, the researchers say the quality of insurance, where the neighborhood the hospital is located in and the patient's immigration status, among other factors, may all account for poor prenatal and neonatal care.
About 10 percent of babies born in the U.S. are premature, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But a recent study found that black women have twice the risk of giving birth to premature babies than white women.
The researchers say that quality of care not only has an immediate life or death effect on a baby. Those who receive poor care, particularly extremely premature babies, can also often go on to develop neurodevelopment impairments.
"Black, Hispanic, and Asian very low-birth-weight and very preterm infants are segregated across NICUs reflecting the uneven distribution of minority populations in the United States," researchers wrote in the study. "Explaining these patterns will require understanding the effects of sociodemographic factors and public policy on hospital quality, access, and choice for minority women and their infants."