Cordelia S. Hanna, MPH, CHES, ICCE, CLE, CBA
Founder/Chief Executive Officer/Executive Director
I have worked in the field of maternity care for 30+ years as a reproductive and perinatal health educator, midwife, doula, public health practitioner, birth activist and maternal-child health advocate. I believe in natural living and the body/mind/spirit connection.
I love caring for mothers and babies and teaching and mentoring aspiring maternal-child health professionals. My personal commitment is that all pregnant women have empowered, safe, respectful and joyful birth experiences. I have focused my professional work on eliminating perinatal health disparities and inequities occurring in communities of color and improving maternal care quality through systemic change. I have spent 20+ years working on this mission because it is a human rights issue of utmost importance.
Since 1991, I have attended hundreds of births in homes, hospitals and birth centers and supported families from multicultural backgrounds, in community, domiciliary, clinic, public health and hospital settings as a midwife, doula and health educator, and I will soon be adding Health Psychologist to my resume as I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Health Psychology from Walden University. My areas of research and interest are refugee/immigrant health, maternal and infant mental health, cross-cultural birthing and parenting practices, maternal-infant attachment, health disparities and trauma and resilience. My research perspective reflects my transformative worldview which holds that research inquiry needs to be intertwined with politics and a political change agenda to confront social oppression at whatever levels it occurs.
My Certifications and Training
I am a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) whose skills include Responsibilities such as Assessment, Planning, Evaluation, Administration, Communication, Advocacy, and more. I am a Certified Childbirth Educator with International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA), a Certified Birth Assistant accredited by The Association for Labor Assistants and Childbirth Educators (ALACE), a Certified Lactation Educator, accredited by Childbirth and Postpartum Provider Association (CAPPA), and a Family Planning/Reproductive Health & Sexuality Educator through California Family Health Council.
In addition, I am a direct-entry midwife, who trained through apprenticeship with Licensed Midwives/Certified Professional Midwives in Los Angeles County, CA and worked in birth centers and in private homes.
I have a BA in Theatre, Dance and Vocal Music from Indiana University, Bloomington. I have performed as an actress, singer and dancer.
I earned a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) in Health Education and Promotion/ Maternal-Child Health from Loma Linda University. I love working in public health because it seeks to address social inequalities and the social determinants of health through a holistic, multidisciplinary approach.
As a Certified Health Education Specialist and Childbirth Educator, I have developed and teach several perinatal trainings for health and human service professionals, giving them the tools to promote perinatal health in their communities among BIPOC persons who more often than European-Americans have poorer health outcomes. Since 2011, 300+ persons have graduated from my training and certification programs and are now working in various settings to improve maternal and child health throughout the country. Many are now practicing midwives, lactation consultants, doulas, and family support providers.
I have been working on the issue of African-American/Black perinatal health disparities and inequities since 2002. As a Health Educator for the Pasadena Public Health Department Black Infant Health Program from 2002-2012, I received mentorship and enjoyed my collaboration with the late Geraldine “Mama Gerri” Perry-Williams, PHN, MSN, a public health nurse who worked as the Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Director and Black Infant Health Program Coordinator for the City of Pasadena Public Health Department for 30 years. In 2002, Gerri and I established the very first Community-Based Doula Program in Los Angeles County for Medi-Cal families at The Black Infant Health Program in Pasadena (Sadly, “Mama Gerri” passed away in 2018). During a decade as a Health Educator at Pasadena Public Health Department, I trained Community Health Outreach Workers (CHOWs) from Black Infant Health (BIH) Programs throughout California in Doula and Breastfeeding Support. Additionally, I developed a childbirth education curriculum and taught classes for the Pasadena Public Health Department, filling an unmet need for evidence-based, birthing-justice-informed, culturally relevant childbirth preparation classes for Pasadena’s Medi-Cal recipients.
In 2010, I founded the Association for Wholistic Maternal and Newborn Health (AWMNH) in response to a critical shortage of skilled birth workers from communities of color. Under my leadership, in 2016 and 2017, the Association for Wholistic Maternal and Newborn Health co-sponsored the Human Rights in Childbirth US Summit and Birthing Justice Forum which brought together grassroots maternal health advocates from around the country to advocate for justice in maternity care. In 2020, AWMNH changed its name to Happy Mama Healthy Baby Alliance to reflect our expanding recognition of the impact of trauma in all its forms on infant and maternal mental health; hence comes our slogan “Happy Mamas Growing Healthy Babies”.
In the 1990s, I worked with the California Association of Midwives (CAM) to ratify the law that established the licensure pathway for direct-entry midwives in California, The Licensed Midwifery Practice Act of 1994. This helped to increase access to midwifery care for childbearing families and increased birthing options for all Californians.
I am currently a member of a committee working to pass a law that would include Certified Doulas as Medi-Cal providers, making Doula support accessible for all families in California starting in 2023.
My Upbringing and Family
The focus of my life’s work on social equity has their roots in my upbringing and early life exposures, and the examples of my progressive, politically active family who shaped my worldview and personal philosophy. My work on health justice is a reflection of my Judeo-Christian faith and commitment to the principle of Tikkun Olam, the healing and repair of the world.
I am the great-granddaughter of refugees who fled Eastern Europe during the ethnic persecution of the Jews by imperialist Russia, called the pogroms. My great-grandfather considered himself an anarchist, and his son, my grandfather, got to meet Anarchist Feminist Emma Goldman when he was a boy. I am the granddaughter of “the old left;” my grandfather was a Jewish labor union organizer, and my grandmother was an “illegal” Swede-Finn immigrant who met at a Socialist Party meeting in 1935
My young, idealistic parents were folk musicians and anti-Vietnam war and civil rights activists. As founders and leaders of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at Indiana University in the 1960s, they were principal representations of the New Left. I attended the anti-Vietnam war protest in 1968 in Washington, DC, pushed in a stroller by my mother, a community organizer and progressive political activist. The demonstration was organized by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Committee and The Poor People’s Campaign, who sought to end the war by peaceful resistance and to eliminate racism and poverty. As a young child, my father (a man with a deeply rooted social conscience and empathy for the suffering caused by man’s inhumanity to man) conveyed to me the plight of people less privileged than myself and taught me about the historical injustices inflicted upon people of color in America. With this as my formative environment, my work on health justice reflects my philosophical worldview which focuses on the needs of groups and individuals in our society that may be marginalized or disenfranchised.
Most importantly, however, I am a mother of a daughter and son who were home-born, family-bedded, exclusively breastfed and attachment-parented, who are now bright and capable young adults. In addition, I am a proud “nana” to three beautiful grandchildren.
I have family in Kenya and Ghana. My spouse was born and raised in Accra, Ghana; we enjoy an international lifestyle spanning two continents–Africa and North America.
I enjoy traveling, swimming and yoga, and taking nature hikes with my beloved “fur-baby” Koa, an Australian Cattle Dog mix. When not doing my birth work, I enjoy singing and making music, a family favorite pastime.