To investigate racial and ethnic differences in unexpected, term newborn morbidity and the influence of hospital quality on disparities.
We used 2010–2014 birth certificate and discharge abstract data from 40 New York City hospitals in a retrospective cohort study of 483 834 low-risk (term, singleton, birth weight ≥2500 g, without preexisting fetal conditions) neonates. We classified morbidity according to The Joint Commission’s unexpected newborn complications metric and used multivariable logistic regression to compare morbidity risk among racial and ethnic groups. We generated risk-standardized complication rates for each hospital using mixed-effects logistic regression to evaluate quality, ranked hospitals on this measure, and assessed differences in the racial and ethnic distribution of births across facilities.
The unexpected complications rate was 48.0 per 1000 births. Adjusted for patient characteristics, morbidity risk was higher among Black and Hispanic infants compared with white infants (odds ratio: 1.5 [95% confidence interval 1.3–1.9]; odds ratio: 1.2 [95% confidence interval 1.1–1.4], respectively). Among the 40 hospitals, risk-standardized complications ranged from 25.3 to 162.8 per 1000 births. One-third of Black and Hispanic women gave birth in hospitals ranking in the highest-morbidity tertile, compared with 10% of white and Asian American women (P < .001).
Black and Hispanic women were more likely to deliver in hospitals with high complication rates than were white or Asian American women. Findings implicate hospital quality in contributing to preventable newborn health disparities among low-risk, term births. Quality improvement targeting routine obstetric and neonatal care is critical for equity in perinatal outcomes.