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Aftershock: Examining the maternal health crisis facing women in the United States

By: Akilah Stewart, Camille Sledge, Addison Anderson and Samantha Aiello.

PHOENIX — Last weekend we had the opportunity to see the documentary Aftershock, which examines the maternal health crisis facing women in the United States. Co-directors Tonya Lewis Lee and Paula Eiselt explore the systemic reasons why Black and Brown women are more than three times more likely to die during childbirth.

Maternal health is a critical issue that impacts the health and well-being of mothers, their families, and communities. Unfortunately, disparities continue to persist. Black mothers are more likely to experience pregnancy-related complications, including preterm birth and maternal mortality, compared to white mothers. These disparities are rooted in systemic racism, poverty and lack of access to quality healthcare.

Addressing these disparities is crucial to ensuring that all mothers have access to the care and support they need to have healthy pregnancies and deliver healthy babies. Improving maternal health requires a comprehensive approach that addresses the social, economic, and political factors that contribute to these disparities and investments in programs and policies that support the health and well-being of black mothers and families. Below are words from our Director and LEE group.


"Aftershock", I had the amazing opportunity to attend the screening of this documentary alongside the Our Sister Our Brother Lived Experienced Experts. I was not prepared for the emotions it would invoke and the tears that I would shed. Fifteen years working in the child welfare system, and I continue to reflect on how professions that are meant to be one of helping families, hurt and at times destroy.

I began to draw comparisons between the systems; that of the healthcare system and the child welfare system. Two helping agencies that have caused so much hurt, so much damage that it affects generations and generations to come. Both sever the connection between mother and child predominantly in the African American community. Individuals for the most part do not get into this profession to inflict harm but yet it happens. I implore those that remain in this field to reconnect to their humanity, find healthy ways to cope with stress and the secondary trauma you experience. Not every person of color is the same, take the time to get to know them and find the beauty that is unique to that family because every family unit carries with them a heartbeat that is exclusively theirs. These systems must improve the way they are doing things for children and families. Or we will all continue to experience the "Aftershock".