Established in 1993 by two midwives and Cordelia Hanna, a childbirth educator, Wholistic Midwifery School of Southern California’s original intent was to establish direct-entry midwifery school and freestanding birth center serving low-income families while providing a training site for student midwives pursuing licensure. Our original vision was never realized, however, our mission evolved to promote the Midwives Model of Care in maternal health programs in public health, clinics and hospitals.
In 2010, we established the DBA Association for Wholistic Maternal and Newborn Health, with the same mission, but a different focus. For a decade we have provided training opportunities for entry into the perinatal professions. In 2011, we established the Perinatal Support Specialist Doula Training. So far, 255 persons have graduated from our training programs. Many of them have gone on to become midwives, lactation consultants and public health professionals.
In 2019, we received a grant from Health Net Inc. to develop a pilot community-based doula program. The Community-Based Doula Model is an innovative approach to address seemingly intransigent ethnic perinatal health disparities through advocacy, health education, and physical and emotional support. The Health Net Community Doula Program’s goal was to lower cesarean rates among Health Net’s African-American members for 150 African-American families. In just 6 months, we succeeded in lowering Health Net’s cesarean rate among their African-American members from 70% to 10%. Our premature birth rate was 5%, far below the national average for African-American infants.
In 2020, we established the DBA Happy Mama Healthy Baby Alliance to reflect our evolving work as an international training and advocacy organization, and our expanded focus on maternal and infant mental health— because happy mamas grow healthy babies! Happy Mama Healthy Baby Alliance provides training and mentorship opportunities for the perinatal professions, opportunities for networking and learning; bringing people together who are not normally at the same table. At these forums, professionals strategize on ways to eliminate health disparities, improve maternity care quality, reduce maternity care expenditures, increase access to midwives and doulas, and promote evidence-based, culturally relevant, respectful maternity care.
Our trainings and classes promote evidence-based maternity care, based on the principles and steps of the Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative, an evidence-based quality improvement initiative developed by The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services. In 2015, we earned national recognition when we received the Advocate Award for our work promoting the Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative in clinics, doctor’s offices and hospitals in Los Angeles, California.
- We design community-based initiatives and strategies, engage and mobilize stakeholders to improve maternal and child health.
- Create networking and continuing education opportunities for perinatal professionals: seminars, conferences, webinars, panel discussions, film screenings, etc.
- Offering free and low-cost doula, lactation support and childbirth education for disadvantaged, hard-to-reach pregnant women and adolescents.
- Provide certification programs in maternity care: Breastfeeding Peer Counselor, Perinatal Support Specialist, and Postpartum Doula.
- Design programs to improve maternal and infant health through consulting with ministries of health, health plans, hospitals and clinics to implement evidence-based, mother and baby-centered, holistic and respectful maternity care.
- We provide staff development training for community perinatal health workers, nurses, and other professionals.
- We assist clinics, health departments and community-based programs in developing prenatal programs that are evidence-based and culturally relevant.
Our trainings include The Perinatal Support Specialist Training, and Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Training and more. We have worked with dozens of organizations in California providing training opportunities, including UCLA Center for Health Promotion, Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, Maternal-Child Health Access, UMMA Clinic, Black Infant Health, South Los Angeles Health Projects, Fresno Department of Public Health, and more.
Conferences and Events
Our conferences and events include The Mother-Friendly Childbirth Symposium, The Birthing Justice Forum, The Maternal-Child Health Champion Awards Ceremony, and our film and discussion series where we provide a forum to discuss tough issues such as racism in maternity care and the lifelong impact of maternal stress on fetal development and child health.
Speakers at our conferences include renowned experts including:
Dr. Sarah Buckley (researcher and physician, author of Hormonal Physiology of Childbearing).
Dr. Sayida Peprah, Psy.D., (Perinatal Psychologist)
Dr. Robbie Davis-Floyd (Medical Anthropologist and author of Birth as An American Rite of Passage).
Ena Suseth Valladares (California Latinas for Reproductive Justice).
ABOUT OUR DIRECTOR AND FOUNDER
Cordelia Hanna, MPH, CHES, ICCE, CLE, CBA, is the visionary behind our work and our founder. Ms. Hanna serves as our CEO & Executive Director and was the Program Designer of the Health Net Community Doula Program in 2019 . Currently, she oversees the Happy Mama Healthy Baby Community Doula Program based in Los Angeles which serves all families regardless of ability to pay.
Cordelia is a third-generation community organizer working for social justice, equality, and peace. Cordelia’s 30-year career has focused on perinatal health equity, reducing ethnic perinatal health disparities and promoting respectful, evidence-based maternity care and promoting choices in childbirth.
From 2002-2012, Cordelia worked for The Pasadena Public Health Department Black Infant Health Program where she helped to establish the first community-based doula program for African-American/Black families in Los Angeles County.
From 2002-2004, Cordelia was a Course Leader for The Association of Labor Assistants and Childbirth Educators (now called tolabor organization), leading their Doula/Birth Assistant Training nationally. Cordelia also trained family health advocates working in Black Infant Health Programs throughout California to become Doulas and Breastfeeding Peer Counselors.
Cordelia is a Childbirth Educator/Birth Activist, Childbirth Companion/Doula, and has worked as a Public Health Program Director and Reproductive Health Educator in various settings, including domiciliary, clinic, community, federally-qualified health clinics, hospitals and public health settings. Cordelia has worked as a Primary Midwife Under Supervision and an Assistant Midwife to several midwives in Los Angeles County, California and Marion County, Oregon since 1991.
In 1994, Cordelia represented the California Association of Midwives where she helped ratify the expansion of the National Organization for Women’s (N.O.W) definition of Reproductive Freedom to include choices in childbirth, including licensed midwifery and support for all childbirth options — including homebirth. As Midwifery Childbirth Awareness Project Director of California Association of Midwives from 1992-1995, Cordelia helped in the effort to organize awareness and support for the California Midwifery Licensing Practice Act, which became law in 1993.
Cordelia has a Masters in Public Health (MPH) from Loma Linda University where she majored in Health Education and Promotion/Maternal-Child Health. She is also a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) accredited by National Commission on Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC), and a Certified Childbirth Educator accredited by the International Childbirth Education Association, and Certified Lactation Educator accredited by Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association. Cordelia was trained as a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program Administrator with Le Leche League. Cordelia is certified as a Doula/Birth Assistant and Postpartum Doula with The Association of Labor Assistants and Childbirth Educators.
Cordelia is a mother of two adult children and a grandmother of three.