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
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 awakened 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 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 with hospital teams, 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, decisionmakers 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 who 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.
New Reports on Advancing Birth Equity
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 in 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. The report also highlights key themes from interviews and focus groups with experts in creating a birth equity designation. Funding for the Birth Equity Hospital Designation project was provided by the Centene Foundation for Quality Healthcare and Health Net.
Cohort 2 Hospital Teams Discuss Their Experiences
The Dec. 8 event also featured the five hospital teams of Cohort 2, which began in Jan. 2022, who discussed their first program year, focused on 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 about their experiences.
Rev. Candace Kelly shared that one vital lesson learned this year was “I can no longer say I treat everyone the same.” A staff chaplain and team member with Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital, Rev. Kelly noted that everyone has different needs and explained, “In doing this incredible work, we warrant that we must individualize here. So, when we encounter a Black mother, or one of color, we have to check our biases at the door. We have to check our judgments at the door and bring your heart — bring in that openness to hear them.”
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, 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.”
Year Two: Implementation
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 are part of the larger Los Angeles County African American Infant and Maternal Mortality (AAIMM) Prevention Initiative. 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 that are 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 organizations:
- Ballmer Group
- The 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.
To learn more about Cherished Futures, please visit www.cherishedfutures.org.
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About Communities Lifting Communities
Communities Lifting Communities (CLC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and regional community health improvement initiative led by the Hospital Association of Southern California (HASC) to reduce health inequities and improve community health in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. For more information, visit communities.hasc.org.
About the Public Health Alliance of Southern California
The Public Health Alliance of Southern California (Alliance) is a coalition of the executive leadership of 10 local health departments in Southern California. Collectively, Alliance members have statutory responsibility for the health of 60 percent of California’s population. The Alliance advances multi-sector policy, systems and environmental change to improve upstream population health and equity. Learn more at www.thepublichealthalliance.org.
About the Hospital Association of Southern California
The Hospital Association of Southern California (HASC) is a not-for-profit 501(c)(6) trade association that advances the interests of hospitals in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. We comprise 176 hospital and 31 health system members plus related organizations, all with one goal: to improve the operating environment for hospitals and the health status of their communities. Learn more at www.hasc.org.