Intended for healthcare professionals


Newborn health checks are unreliable for black and Asian babies, review finds

BMJ 2023; 382 doi: (Published 13 July 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;382:p1620
  1. Jacqui Wise
  1. Kent

Neonatal assessments, including the Apgar score, are “not fit for purpose” for ethnic minority babies, the NHS Race and Health Observatory has said.

Bias inherent in neonatal checks can lead to inaccurate assessments, late diagnosis, and poorer outcomes in non-white babies, says a review commissioned by the independent health body.1

The observatory is calling for an immediate update of maternity guidelines that refer to assessments by skin colour and for greater use of screening tool devices, including oximeters and bilirubinometers. Better education and training for healthcare professionals on clinical assessment of neonates from minority ethnic backgrounds is also urgently needed, it said.

Researchers from Sheffield Hallam University examined 56 studies, of which six related to Apgar scores, three to cyanosis, and the remainder to detecting jaundice. They also carried out in-depth interviews with 33 healthcare professionals and 24 parents.

The Apgar score, which includes …

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