Racial and Ethnic Disparities and Bias in the Evaluation and Reporting of Abusive Head Trauma.

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DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2018.01.048; PMCID: PMC7243470


Objective: To characterize racial and ethnic disparities in the evaluation and reporting of suspected abusive head trauma (AHT) across the 18 participating sites of the Pediatric Brain Injury Research Network (PediBIRN). We hypothesized that such disparities would be confirmed at multiple sites and occur more frequently in patients with a lower risk for AHT.

Study design: Aggregate and site-specific analysis of the cross-sectional PediBIRN dataset, comparing AHT evaluation and reporting frequencies in subpopulations of white/non-Hispanic and minority race/ethnicity patients with lower vs higher risk for AHT.

Results: In the PediBIRN study sample of 500 young, acutely head-injured patients hospitalized for intensive care, minority race/ethnicity patients (n = 229) were more frequently evaluated (P < .001; aOR, 2.2) and reported (P = .001; aOR, 1.9) for suspected AHT than white/non-Hispanic patients (n = 271). These disparities occurred almost exclusively in lower risk patients, including those ultimately categorized as non-AHT (P = .001 [aOR, 2.4] and P = .003 [aOR, 2.1]) or with an estimated AHT probability of ≤25% (P

Conclusion: Significant race/ethnicity-based disparities in AHT evaluation and reporting were observed at only 2 of 18 sites and occurred almost exclusively in lower risk patients. In the absence of local confounders, these disparities likely represent the impact of local physicians' implicit bias.

Journal Title

The Journal of pediatrics



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MeSH Keywords

Bias; Child; Child Abuse; Child, Preschool; Craniocerebral Trauma; Critical Care; Ethnic Groups; European Continental Ancestry Group; Healthcare Disparities; Hospitalization; Humans; Infant; Infant, Newborn; Mandatory Reporting; Minority Groups; United States


abusive head trauma; bias; child abuse; practice disparities

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