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Discussing disparities in care for the most vulnerable infants

Stanford Medicine neonatologist Jochen Profit, MD, knows there's a history of disparity in health care delivery. In his most recent research, he had one goal in mind: to discover how disparities in the delivery of care impacted the most vulnerable infants in neonatal care units (NICUs).

The California Perinatal Quality Care Collaborative has collected information on 95 percent of premature births in the state -- a treasure trove of data -- and Profit and his research colleagues used that to review medical care for more than 18,000 of the state's smallest infants.

As my colleague Erin Digitale pointed out in her press release on the study, "infants' racial and ethnic identities influence the quality of medical care they receive." She also stressed there are caveats and the study is greatly nuanced:

The disparities were not uniform: At some California hospitals, infants from vulnerable populations received worse care than white infants, while at others, they received better care than whites. In general, however, the hospitals with the best outcomes for their patients also delivered better care to white infants. In addition, the study found that black and Hispanic infants were more likely than white infants to receive care in poor-quality NICUs.

Profit has no desire to make providers defensive as he firmly states no health care provider gets out of bed in the morning and says they're going to deliver poor care to vulnerable infants. But it's important, he feels, to address the disparities so that care across the board can improve. He told me:

California is at the very tip of the sphere in quality improvement in many ways, and the things that we can do here we’d love to do around the world – we have a lot of experience in how to make care better for newborns.

In this 1:2:1 podcast, Profit also told me that getting it "right" in NICUs "can set these infants on track for their entire life."

Previously: Gaps exist in California hospital care for babies from different ethnicities
Thumbnail photo by Shutterstock

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