CONTEXT: Racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes of newborns requiring care in the NICU setting have been reported. The contribution of NICU care to disparities in outcomes is unclear.
OBJECTIVE: To conduct a systematic review of the literature documenting racial/ethnic disparities in quality of care for infants in the NICU setting.
DATA SOURCES: Medline/PubMed, Scopus, Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health, and Web of Science were searched until March 6, 2018, by using search queries organized around the following key concepts: “neonatal intensive care units,” “racial or ethnic disparities,” and “quality of care.”
STUDY SELECTION: English language articles up to March 6, 2018, that were focused on racial and/or ethnic differences in the quality of NICU care were selected.
DATA EXTRACTION: Two authors independently assessed eligibility, extracted data, and cross-checked results, with disagreements resolved by consensus. Information extracted focused on racial and/or ethnic disparities in quality of care and potential mechanism(s) for disparities.
RESULTS: Initial search yielded 566 records, 470 of which were unique citations. Title and abstract review resulted in 382 records. Appraisal of the full text of the remaining 88 records, along with the addition of 5 citations from expert consult or review of bibliographies, resulted in 41 articles being included.
LIMITATIONS: Quantitative meta-analysis was not possible because of study heterogeneity.
CONCLUSIONS: Overall, this systematic review revealed complex racial and/or ethnic disparities in structure, process, and outcome measures, most often disadvantaging infants of color, especially African American infants. There are some exceptions to this pattern and each area merits its own analysis and discussion.