Healthcare advice must diversify to support newborn babies

Lack of diversity in healthcare is a ‘key challenge’ and is putting patients at risk, from the hospital maternity ward to research in clinical trials

A report from the NHS Race and Health Observatory has called for an update to maternity guidelines, due to advice regarding a newborn’s skin colour. 

The Apgar score, a review of a baby’s health following birth which was written in the 1950s, instructs nurses to check that the newborn’s skin is pink, which is only relevant for white babies.


Healthcare must support babies of all ethnic groups

The Apgar score reviews the babies skin colour - checking whether the baby is pink all over and checking for any signs of blue skin. The score also checks a baby's muscles, pulse and breathing. The NHS Race and Health Observatory suggests that this score is unhelpful for babies from ethnic groups with darker skin, who may be in need of medical attention or perfectly healthy, without being pink.

Researchers from Sheffield Hallam University reviewed scientific literature and interviewed healthcare professionals and parents. Their findings showed that most felt that the language used in the Apgar score needs to be updated to include advice for babies of all ethnic groups.


Diversity in clinical trials is essential for accurate results

In the healthcare industry, lack of diversity is not just a problem in the maternity ward. There are growing calls for clinical trials to be conducted with diversity of race, gender, age, income, ability and location in mind - something the sector is lacking. 

“We are all aware of some of the key challenges presented by a lack of diversity in clinical trials”, says Tarquin Scadding-Hunt, CEO of mdgroup. “Incomplete data, uncertainty over treatment outcomes and disparities in healthcare, to name a few.”

“We need to make sure all clinical trials are collecting data on ethnicity”, said Scadding-Hunt. “In a review of 230 oncology clinical trials taking place between 2008–2018, only 145 included any information about the participant’s race. Of those that did, approximately 76% of the participants were white, 18% Black, 3% Asian, and 6% Hispanic.”

Without the right data, it will be impossible to build a treatment that works for everyone.

Jennifer Jones-McMeans is Abbott’s divisional Vice President of Global Clinical Affairs for the healthcare company’s vascular arm. She, too, is calling for greater diversity in healthcare. 

“The work we're doing with the clinical trials and diversity inclusion fits right into Abbott's sustainability campaign. Our 2030 goal is to treat about three billion people, with a clear commitment to the patients, physicians and healthcare workers. How do we make things better for them?” said Jones-McMeans.

From birth, diversity matters in healthcare.


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