Mortality Among Very Low-Birthweight Infants in Hospitals Serving Minority Populations

Published In: American Journal of Public Health, v. 95, no. 12, Dec. 2005, p. 2206-2212

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2004

by Leo S. Morales, Douglas Staiger, Jeffrey Horbar, Joseph Carpenter, Michael Kenny, Jeffrey Geppert, Jeannette Rogowski

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OBJECTIVE: The authors investigated whether the proportion of Black very low-birth-weight (VLBW) infants treated by hospitals is associated with neonatal mortality for Black and White VLBW infants. METHODS: The authors analyzed medical records linked to secondary data sources for 74050 Black and White VLBW infants (501 g to 1500 g) treated by 332 hospitals participating in the Vermont Oxford Network from 1995 to 2000. Hospitals where more than 35% of VLBW infants treated were Black were defined as minority-serving. RESULTS: Compared with hospitals where less than 15% of the VLBW infants were Black, minority-serving hospitals had significantly higher risk-adjusted neonatal mortality rates (White infants: odds ratio [OR]=1.30, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.09, 1.56; Black infants: OR = 1.29, 95% CI = 1.01, 1.64; Pooled: OR = 1.28, 95% CI=1.10, 1.50). Higher neonatal mortality in minority-serving hospitals was not explained by either hospital or treatment variables. CONCLUSIONS: Minority-serving hospitals may provide lower quality of care to VLBW infants compared with other hospitals. Because VLBW Black infants are disproportionately treated by minority-serving hospitals, higher neonatal mortality rates at these hospitals may contribute to racial disparities in infant mortality in the United States.

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