KEY POINTS

  • Researchers compared post-surgery death risks of white and minority children
  • SES was determined as high, high/middle, low/middle or low based on family income
  • Researchers called for "equitable and personalized care" for all

Minority children are more likely to die after surgery compared to white children, a new study has found. This shows the "wealth advantage" does not apply to minorities, the researchers said.

In a "first-of-its-kind" study, presented at the Anesthesiology 2021 Annual meeting, the researchers had a closer look at the post-surgical death rate of children, the American Society of Anesthesiologists, noted in a news release. Specifically, they looked at the data from 2006, 2009 and 2012 and compared the surgical outcomes of the white children and minority children in different socioeconomic status (SES) levels at a 1:1 ratio.

The children's SES was determined as high, high/middle, low/middle or low based on the median household income of the ZIP code in which they reside.

"They analyzed the surgical outcomes of 79,280 Black children to 79,280 white children, and used the same 1:1 ratio to compare white children to Native American children (5,344), Asian children (17,508) and Hispanic children (116,125)," the organization explained.

Interestingly, the researchers found that the minority children were more likely to die after surgery compared to white children, regardless if they were in the same SES. For instance, Black children in the three lowest income quartiles were 1.5 times more likely to die post-surgery compared to white children in the same quartiles, the organization noted. And even if Black children in the higher income quartiles had less of a death risk compared to Black children in the lowest quartiles, the difference still wasn't "statistically significant."

Furthermore, a similar pattern was noted in children from other minority groups.

"Given that minority children — especially Black and Hispanic children — are more likely to be born into poverty than white children, the common narrative is that the difference in SES is a primary reason for the racial disparity in the rate of post-surgical death," study lead author, Brittany L. Willer, M.D. of Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio, said in the news release.

For instance, the observed "stark and persistent" racial health disparities in the U.S. cover factors including chronic health conditions and health coverage, with more minorities tending to be uninsured compared to non-Hispanic white Americans. However, the results of the study show how among minority groups, having a higher SES -- even being in the wealthiest income group -- still did not lead to a reduction in excess death risks, the organization noted.

"Though white children belonging to families of higher SES benefit from improved health outcomes in comparison to their peers in lower SES families, this study demonstrates that a 'wealth advantage' does not exist for minority children," Dr. Willer added.

Apart from stressing the need to address the "poverty-related" factors that continue to affect the ones in lower SES groups, Dr. Willer also noted how minorities in "all SES levels" are still affected by "systemic inequities and chronic prejudice" that can contribute to depression, chronic stress and obesity.

"Equitable and personalized surgical care should be the ultimate goal for children of all SES classes, races and ethnicities," Dr. Willer said, noting some of the moves physicians can take to address these issues. "Most importantly, we need to be aware of our implicit biases and practice strategies to address them."

child hospital Representational image. Photo: Pixabay