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Student Organizations Come Together to Discuss Documentary on Maternal Mortality Crisis

April 14, 2023

Storytelling is a valuable tool in public health. Its engage people and has the power to change hearts and minds. That is exactly what the documentary Aftershock does.

Aftershock makes real the disparities that exist in maternal mortality within the U.S. by sharing the true stories of women who died due to preventable childbirth complications. The stories are told from the perspective of grieving spouses who are now embarking on the journey of single parenthood.

Last week as part of National Public Health Week and Black Maternal Health Week, Drexel’s Maternal and Child Health Student Organization (MCHSO), Dornsife Student Government Organization (SGO), and Drexel Peer Health Educators (PHE) co-hosted a screening of Aftershock, followed by a discussion facilitated by Dr. Aasta Mehta, adjunct faculty in Dornsife's department of Community Health and Prevention and Medical Officer of Women’s Health at the Division of Maternal and Child Health, Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

The documentary balanced educating viewers on the history of the field of obstetrics, the increase in number of cesarean sections, and increasing knowledge and utilization of birthing alternatives, while sharing the disappointing fact that Black women regardless of their walk of life are not immune to the disparities that exists in maternal mortality.

"I really appreciated Dr. Mehta leading such an engaging, nuanced, and meaningful discussion about systemic injustices, considerations, and ideas for change." - Leah Sodowick

A range of questions and topics were discussed after the screening. Ideas that were shared as possible solutions included:

  • Increased training for doctors in public health principles and implicit bias,
  • Tying outcomes to reimbursement,
  • Investments in infrastructure and innovation, and
  • Advocating for policy changes

Students also commented on how addressing disparities in maternal mortality is not just a women’s issue, but is something everyone needs to be aware of and become part of the solution.

“I appreciated that men’s perspectives, which are largely invisible, get to be at the center of the conversation as well," said Markolline Forkpa, MPH, Former MCH trainee and DSPH Alum ’22. "Maternal death may claim the life of one person but disrupts the lives of many more who struggle to pick up the pieces of interrupted schooling plans, upset housing arrangements and financial instability.”

“I appreciate that Aftershock covers the narrative of how fathers are affected by maternal mortality. The documentary displays affected families and, in particular how the fathers left behind by their partners’ passing are still coping with unexpected loss,” echoed Roishinique Johnson, MPH candidate and MCH trainee.

Attendees discussed ways to increase awareness in communities. All with the understanding that racism, and not race, is a root cause for maternal mortality disparities resulting from a healthcare system and society that advantages white skin.

The event created time to come together and discuss this important topic in a safe space and brainstorm ways to create change.

"The film was so moving, and it inspired me to continue to engage in advocacy work in the maternal health space. I really appreciated Dr. Mehta leading such an engaging, nuanced, and meaningful discussion about systemic injustices, considerations, and ideas for change," said Leah Sodowick, Clinical Psychology Doctoral Student, Drexel Maternal and Child Health Student Organization & National Perinatal Association Student Society Officer

How to watch Aftershock

Learn more about Dornsife's MCH program and upcoming MCH events.

Dornsife's Maternal and Child Health Program is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit