In Winston-Salem, Novant Health is partnering with a/perture cinema to raise awareness about high maternal mortality rates for Black women in the U.S. According to data from the Commonwealth Fund, American women already experience the highest maternal death rates among developed nations. And at roughly 55 deaths per 100,000 live births, Black women are nearly three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. 

Novant Health’s Dr. Pam Oliver calls it an embarrassing statistic for one of the richest nations in the world, especially given the number of resources put into healthcare.

“What’s even worse is that we know that about 80% of those deaths are what we would consider preventable,” says Oliver. “If women were actually able to tackle chronic health conditions, if they had continual coverage, if we diagnose and respond in a timely manner, then maybe we could prevent 80% of those deaths. And that means moms who are not here to raise their children and breadwinners for families. It means women who contribute to society that we are losing unless we take action and do more.”

One of the leading drivers of this disparity is health care access and coverage. She says the documentary Aftershock covers these challenges and addresses negative stereotypes by showing the totality of the Black women who were profiled in the film.

“You saw their partners or their spouses who were there, who were engaged,” she says. “You saw moms and community members who were there to support it. And to me it really helped to elucidate that this is not about people who don’t care about their health and therefore something happens to them. This is about true failings at multiple levels that we have to address.”

Oliver says Novant has several initiatives that address the disparity including a task force to study best practices nationwide and reduce common complications during pregnancy such as hemorrhaging and hypertension, increasing access by bringing new clinics to where patients live, and diversifying the workforce. 

Aftershock by filmmakers Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee opens at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at a/perture cinema in Winston-Salem. The screening is open to the public and will be followed by a discussion about the film.


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