Bill aims to combat racial disparities in maternal, infant mortality

Washington-DC

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — As more research finds glaring disparities in health care along racial lines, involving maternal and infant mortality rates, cancer treatment and the spread of COVID-19, researchers and lawmakers say changes are needed to close the gaps.

A new study out of George Mason University in Virginia shows Black babies under the care of white doctors are more than three times more likely to die than those treated by Black doctors.

“We are the largest, wealthiest civilization ever known to mankind. This is unacceptable,” Dr. Brad Greenwood of George Mason University said of the maternal and infant mortality rates in the United States. “The fact that it manifests in one group is equally unacceptable.”

He noted the reasons for the disparity are complex.

“We’re not here to demonize physicians,” he said. “If we share ascriptive traits, whether they be race, gender, physical appearances, it increases concordance, concordance increases trust. It increases the ability to empathize.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., is pushing legislation to close the health gap between Black and white moms.

“To provide the quality standards, the education, the funding to make sure that every baby, every mom gets what they need during labor and delivery,” she listed the goals of her bill, which has bipartisan support.

But she pointed out the pandemic has revealed racial health care disparities are not isolated.

George Mason University Dr. Nirup Menon’s research shows it also exists between Black and white cancer patients.

“They get the treatment, yes, but it’s delayed,” he said of Black patients.

His research suggests a technology deficit at hospitals serving minority patients plays a part.

“There is inherit, deep structural problems that need to be addressed,” he said.

House Democrats introduced a bill last month that would launch a study to find broad solutions.

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