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College of Social Work

Institute for Families in Society (IFS) Video Wins Award

A short film produced by the Institute for Families in Society (IFS) tied for first place at the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology’s ACOG-District IV Annual Meeting. The film, under the broader initiative Voices|Voces, was created as a discussion tool on maternal healthcare for educating and training healthcare professionals and the greater community at-large.

The winning video, titled "I've Got You - Maternal Mortality," is part of the larger project focused on elevating the voices and experiences of South Carolina Black and Latinx women, recent immigrant women facing low-income challenges and women relying on Medicaid for pregnancy, birthing and postpartum-related costs.

The Voices|Voces Initiative, spearheaded by IFS, aims to improve healthcare outcomes and reduce maternal mortality and morbidity rates among women of color while amplifying women's voices as active partners in their care. The initiative funded the development of a theatrical performance based on interviews with women using Medicaid for pregnancy and birthing-related care during COVID-19.

IFS researchers recorded the Voices|Voces performances with the assistance of both USC’s College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Journalism and Mass Communications to generate discussions about core issues including equity and justice among systems of care, according to lead researcher Deborah Billings. She says the Voices|Voces performances not only capture the experiences of women during a crucial time in their pregnancies but also serve as a catalyst for discussions among healthcare providers, administrators, policymakers, community organizations and consumers. Billings says the goal is to shape responsive and inclusive healthcare systems and services through diverse voices and narratives.

“Our multi-lingual, multi-racial/ethnic, and multi-disciplinary Voices/Voces team aimed, from the get-go, to engage Black and Latinx immigrant pregnant and postpartum women in an initiative that would raise their voices and bring to life the persistent negative trends in pregnancy-related outcomes that IFS and others have documented so well through quantitative data,” says Billings.

The research, conceptualized and supervised by Research Professor & Associate Director Ana López-De Fede, involved a multidisciplinary, multilingual team led by Billings and included contributions from Alyssa Robillard, PhD, Chloe Rodriguez Ramos, MPH and Patti Walker, MFA.

College of Arts and Sciences senior instructor Patti Walker directed the theatrical aspect of the project and says that while data on inequities in pregnancy and birth outcomes for US women of color gets discussed, it often leaves policy makers guessing at reasons for the discrepancies in rates. According to

Walker, to understand and improve outcomes, policy makers need firsthand accounts from the people affected.

“The arts-based method used in the Voices/Voces Initiative to disseminate those accounts has the power to have a deep impact on the viewer and allows for a nuanced understanding of the realities lived by those who were interviewed,” says Walker.

Amy Hairston Crockett, Program Chair for District IV and an Obstetrics and Gynecology Professor at USC School of Medicine-Greenville says that effective communication skills and a reassuring bedside manner are important but also one of the hardest lessons to teach. She says patient perspective is much needed and the videos will help healthcare providers improve their profession.

“The ‘I Got You’ video is such a powerful example of how doctors make their patients feel, but also provides a structured way to help improve communication,” says Crockett.

López-De Fede accepted the award Oct. 21 in Washington, DC. The ACOG District represents the District of Columbia, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Argentina, Puerto Rico and the West Indies.

“This recognition is a testament to the impactful work being done by IFS researchers and collaborators," said López-De Fede. "The Voices|Voces Initiative is breaking new ground in addressing critical issues surrounding pregnancy and birth, and we are proud of the research team that was honored.”

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