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A review of the current policies and guidance regarding Apgar scoring and the detection of jaundice and cyanosis concerning black, asian and ethnic minority neonates

Title: A review of the current policies and guidance regarding apgar scoring and the detection of jaundice and cyanosis concerning black, asian and ethnic minority neonates

Source: BMC Pediatrics 2024, 24 (1): 198

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Date of publication: March 2024

Publication type: Review article

Abstract: Background: Ethnic inequalities in maternal and neonatal health in the UK are well documented. Concerns exist regarding the use of skin colour in neonatal assessments. Healthcare professionals should be trained to recognise symptoms of diverse skin tones, and comprehensive, and inclusive guidance is necessary for the safe assessment of all infants. Disparities in healthcare provision have been emphasised during the COVID-19 pandemic, and additional research is needed to determine whether such policies adequately address ethnic minority neonates.

Methods: A desktop search included searches of guidance produced for the United Kingdom (UK). Further searches of the Cochrane and World Health Organization (WHO) were used to identify any international guidance applicable in the UK context.

Results: Several policies and one training resource used descriptors ‘pink,’ ‘pale,’ ‘pallor,’ and ‘blue’ about neonatal skin and mucous membrane colour. No policies provided specific guidance on how these colour descriptors may appear in neonates with different skin pigmentation. Only the NICE guidance and HEE e-learning resource acknowledged the challenges of assessing jaundice in infants with diverse skin tones, while another guideline noted differences in the accuracy of bilirubin measurements for the assessment of jaundice. Three policies and one training resource advised against relying on visual observation of skin colour when diagnosing neonatal conditions. The training resource included images of ethnic minority neonates, although most images included white infants.

Conclusions: Inadequate consideration of ethnicity in UK policy and training perpetuates disparities, leading to inaccurate assessments. A review is needed for inclusivity in neonatal care, regardless of skin pigmentation.

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