Hidden in plain sight in the delivery room - The Apgar score is biased

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Journal of perinatal medicine


Objectives: The objective of this study was to compare the maximum 5-min Apgar score of 10 among different U.S. races and Hispanic ethnicity.

Methods: Retrospective population-based cohort study from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), and Division of Vital Statistics natality online database. We included only deliveries where the race and Hispanic ethnicity of the father and mother were listed as either Black, White, Chinese, or Asian Indian and as Hispanic or Latino origin or other. Proportions of 5-Minute Apgar scores of 10 were compared among different races and Hispanic ethnicity for six groups each for mother and father: Non-Hispanic or Latino White, Hispanic or Latino White, Non-Hispanic or Latino Black, Hispanic or Latino Black, Chinese, and Asian Indian.

Results: The study population consists of 9,710,066 mothers and 8,138,475 fathers from the US natality birth data 2016-2019. Black newborns had a less than 50% chance of having a 5-min Apgar score of 10 when compared to white newborns (OR 0.47 for Black mother and Black father; p<0.001). White babies (non-Hispanic and Hispanic) had the highest proportion of Apgar scores of 10 across all races and ethnicities.

Conclusions: The Apgar score introduces a bias by systematically lowering the score in people of color. Embedding skin color scoring into basic data and decisions of health care propagates race-based medicine. By removing the skin color portion of the Apgar score and with it's racial and ethnic bias, we will provide more accuracy and equity when evaluating newborn babies worldwide.

Keywords: Apgar score; Chinese; asian indian; bias; black; ethnicity; hispanic; newborn; race; race discrimination.



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