Cherished Futures Marks Third Year of Efforts to Address Birth Inequities Impacting Black Families
Collaboration of Hospitals and Community-based Organizations Releases Two New Reports on
Advancing Birth Equity, Notes Progress in Effecting Systemic Change to Reduce Mortality and
Improve Safety for Black Infants and Birthing People
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Senior Vice President, Communications
Hospital Association of Southern California
T: (213) 538-0761 C: (323) 447-0864
Director, Birth Equity & Racial Justice Initiatives
Public Health Alliance of Southern California
LOS ANGELES, January 25, 2023 — On Dec. 8, Communities Lifting Communities (CLC), the Public Health
Alliance of Southern California (Alliance) and the Hospital Association of Southern California (HASC)
celebrated the third year of Cherished Futures for Black Moms & Babies, a collaborative effort to
reduce Black infant mortality and improve patient experience and safety for Black mothers and birthing
people in Los Angeles County.
Cherished Futures launched in January 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic and worldwide rallies for racial justice, which woke people to the reality that racism, in its many forms, is a public health crisis. Racism undergirds inequities in almost every major health status indicator — including disproportionate numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths affecting Black, Latinx and other communities of color. Research also shows that racism and toxic stress are the root causes of disparate birth outcomes for Black women, babies, and birthing people.
Cherished Futures aims to disrupt this situation. Through a two-year cohort experience, the collaborative centers the voices and lived experiences of Black women and birthing people to reduce inequities and inform data-driven hospital quality improvement strategies. Each cohort includes Black women community leaders, decision-makers from birthing hospitals, and representatives from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and health plans — all working to co-design and implement system-change solutions at the clinical, institutional, and community levels.
“It has been a deep honor to create the second cohort of multisector partners that are committed to
this work, with specific, intentional centering of Black families,” said Dana Sherrod, Director, Birth Equity
and Racial Justice Initiatives with the Public Health Alliance.
At the Dec. 8 collaborative convening, the Cherished Futures team announced the release of two new reports that undergird the initiative’s mission. Advancing Birth Equity in Los Angeles County includes information from interviews with six area clinics to study practices and identify challenges to advancing birth equity for Black families. Many of these challenges are systemic, extending beyond clinical spaces; accordingly, the report also explores structural racism’s impact on Black families’ health and provides actionable, data-driven strategies and recommendations. The study and report were made possible by Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan.
The second report, Engaging Community Members and Key Stakeholders in the Development of a
Birth Equity Hospital Designation, details results from a comparative analysis of hospital evaluation
systems and highlights key themes from interviews and focus groups with experts in creating a birth
equity designation for California hospitals. The findings point to a need for stronger, intentional, nonhierarchical
partnerships between hospitals and the communities they serve. Funding for the Birth
Equity Hospital Designation project was provided by the Centene Foundation for Quality Healthcare and
The Dec. 8 event also featured the five hospital teams of Cohort 2, which began in Jan. 2022, discussing
their first program year, capacity building. Team members from Antelope Valley Medical Center,
MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach, St. Francis Medical Center, Torrance
Memorial Medical Center and UCLA Health shared their experiences.
Rev. Dr. Candace Kelly shared that “One vital lesson learned this year from our Birth Equity Team and
nurses, in particular, is that we understand it is not enough to say, ‘I treat all my patients the same.’” A
staff chaplain and team member with Miller Children's & Women's Hospital, Rev. Dr. Kelly noted,
“Everyone has different needs and respectful maternal care must provide individualized care. So when
we encounter a Black mother, we have to check our biases and judgments at the door and enter in
with our hearts, which brings in the openness to hear her."
Her experience with Cherished Futures has been “very informative,” said Mercedez Johnson, who serves
as community advisor with the Antelope Valley Medical Center team. A doula with 10 years of
experience, she’s been able to “see the back end” of the hospital birthing process and invite the team to
become more active with community-based organizations. While she has observed some challenges
such as bias and hospital staff attitudes toward patients, Mercedez said, she’s also seen colleagues
“showing interest in change.” In the coming year, she hopes for “more in-person opportunities” to
continue implementing change, and she’s encouraged by the possibility of DEI (diversity, equity and
inclusion) training for the team.
Natalie Thorpe, Clinical Director of Maternal Child Health Services at Torrance Memorial Medical Center,
described an “aha” moment for her team. “Before, when we discussed a patient who had a bad
outcome or a near miss, race and ethnicity never came into the conversation,” she said. “I think we felt
that we would be offending if we said, ‘This is a Black woman.’ And now, when we have a situation that
comes up, I think, ‘Was she Black?’ … We have learned a lot. I think we’ve all changed the way that we
think and what we want to do to shift the inequity in health care.”
Cherished Futures completed its first two-year cohort in Dec. 2021. Together, the members of Cohorts 1
and 2 deliver approximately 45% of Black hospital births in Los Angeles County. The Cherished Futures initiative is one of many local efforts that is part of the larger Los Angeles County African American Infant and Maternal Mortality (AAIMM) Prevention Initiative. This year in 2023, Cohort 2 will move into its second year, implementing the individual systems-change strategies developed in the first year. CLC and the Alliance will continue hosting convenings, providing technical assistance to hospitals implementing improvement strategies, and evaluating the overall success of the Cherished Futures model.
The Cherished Futures collaborative is made possible by generous support from the following
Centene Foundation for Quality Healthcare
County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health
Supported by the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF), which works to ensure that people have access to the care they need, when they need it, at a price they can afford. Visit www.chcf.org to learn more.
Funded in part by First 5 LA, a leading public grantmaking and child advocacy organization.
This project is funded in part by L.A. Care Health Plan and will benefit low-income and uninsured residents of Los Angeles County. Visit lacare.org to learn more.