Organizational History

Organizational History

MCH Champion Awardee

Award recipients for Maternal-Child Health Advocates and Activists at the 2017 Birthing Justice Forum & Human Rights in Childbirth Summit Los Angeles, California, hosted by AWMNH and Black Women Birthing Justice (photo by Ani Tsourian).




In 1993, Cordelia Hanna, along with two midwives, founded Wholistic Midwifery School of Southern California (WMSSC) as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit community charity in Los Angeles. The aim was to provide an alternative to the lengthy apprenticeships for student midwives to become California Licensed Midwives and Certified Professional Midwives, as licensure for direct-entry midwives had just been codified in the California Business and Professions Code in 1994. The founders also envisioned a freestanding birth center accepting Medi-Cal and serving low-income families. This birth center would be a training site for student midwives pursuing licensure under the supervision of Licensed Midwives. They were years ahead of the trends.


In 2010, with a grant from The Laurence H. Tribe Charitable Trust,  the DBA Association for Wholistic Maternal and Newborn Health (AWMNH) was established with the same mission but a different focus.  Also,  we received a 2-year grant from The California Community Foundation this year.   

By 2011,  our mission had evolved and changed. However, we remained committed to promoting the Midwives Model of Care and integrating client-centered, wholistic maternity care into maternal health programs. We focused our outreach efforts on promoting this model in clinics, hospitals, and public health departments. 

We could not provide professional labor support due to insufficient insurance and Medi-Cal reimbursement. Instead, we focused on offering Community Doula Services through a volunteer program. This program enabled new graduate doulas to fulfill their certification requirements while providing a much-needed service to low-to-moderate-income families. Until 2024, this service was not available in California. However, we can now bill Medi-Cal for the services we have been offering pro bono for years.


With funding received from The California Community Foundation for Nursing Education and Hospital Improvements in 2010 and 2011, we launched the Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative of Los Angeles County, a policy and hospital improvement initiative based on the five principles (normalcy of birth, empowerment, autonomy, do not harm, and responsibility) and ten steps of the Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative,  developed by the Coalition to Improve Maternity Services.  

From 2011 to 2015, our organization held numerous conferences that brought together healthcare professionals from a variety of backgrounds, including physicians, nurses, doulas, and midwives. The goal of these conferences was to explore opportunities for collaboration and identify procedures for providing evidence-based and respectful care for birthing persons and their infants. In recognition of our efforts, we were awarded by The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services. Our outreach efforts have helped at least one hospital in Los Angeles, a public health clinic, and several perinatal providers to achieve “mother-friendly” status. Additionally, we have raised awareness about the effectiveness of the recommendations of the Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative (MFCI) in improving birth outcomes.


The Human Rights in Childbirth US Summit & Birthing Justice Forum, California Endowment Center, 2016. Sponsored by AWMNH, Human Rights in Childbirth, Black Women Birthing Justice, and others.

In 2010, we conducted our first course, Childbirth Education for Health and Human Service Workers for home visitors working at  Maternal-Child Health Access, on the pilot project Welcome Baby! Program funded by First 5 LA.

In 2011, we launched The Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Training and Certification Program.  Hired by The Center for Health Promotion at UCLA, we conducted a training Community Health Promoters working the Neighborhood Mother-Mentor Program, a program based in the Pico-Union neighborhood of Los Angeles, which was part of a translational research project at UCLA directed by  Dr. Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus, Ph.D.

From 2015 to 2019, we were funded by Esperanza Community Housing Corporation to deliver our  Perinatal Support Specialist Doula Training to their Community Health Promoters (Promatores de Salud), giving them the knowledge and skills to provide maternal care and perinatal and lactation education to pregnant women and new mothers living in South Los Angeles, California.

2020-2021, we trained maternal-child mental health staff at  Wellnest Emotional Health and Wellbeing. “Wellnest’s Socially Integrated Service Model is designed to address the whole child, from 0-25, the entire family, and the communities they live in” (Wellnest, 2021).  The company invested in staff perinatal training, completing our Perinatal Support Specialist TrainingChildbirth Educator Training, and Postpartum Doula Training, enabling them to provide comprehensive perinatal support services for their clients in South Los Angeles.

So far, 255 persons have graduated from our training and certification programs. Many have become midwives, lactation consultants, medical students, and public health professionals.


Happy Mama Healthy Baby Alliance offers community health education on pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. A grant provided by Prolacta Bioscience/Athari Council (2021) enables us to give perinatal community education to low-income families (Medi-Cal does not reimburse us for these services). Here are some of the classes we offer:

Empowered Birth Choices  

A 4-week series of group classes for pregnant persons and their partners

Expectant parents practice giving birth in the squatting position in childbirth preparation class

This class helps expectant parents to:

  • Prevent Premature Birth
  • Cultivate Trust in Birth
  • Make Informed Decisions
  • Know Their Birthing Rights
  • Understand the Birth Process
  • Make Informed Choices
  • Cope with Labor and Birth
  • Breastfeed Successfully
  • Bond with their Newborns
  • Smoothly Adjust to Parenthood

We do not turn anyone away for inability to pay because we know how vital childbirth education is in improving birth outcomes. Childbirth education is a significantly underfunded public health resource in LA County, so we are filling a gap by offering these classes free of charge to community members.  We delight in helping pregnant people cope with labor and have safe and satisfying birth experiences.

Breast Is Best 

Breastfeeding education class for pregnant and parenting persons

This class covers the basics of how to get breastfeeding started right,  make it work, and cope with everyday problems. Breastfeeding support by Breastfeeding Peer Counselors and referral to International Board-Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) is also available.


Our doula program has been serving low-income families with volunteer and donation-based labor and postpartum doula services since 2011, filling a gap in access to professional doula support for low-income families. As of 2024, doula support is now a Medi-Cal benefit, and we can bill for services.

Our Doulas are BIPOC persons from the neighborhoods and communities they serve. Click here to meet our doulas.

In 2019, AWMNH received a grant from Health Net, Inc. to develop the first doula pilot community-based doula program ever undertaken by a health plan. The Health Net Community Doula Program aimed to lower cesarean rates among Health Net’s African-American members for 150 African-American families. In just six months (n=30), 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, our interest in maternal and infant mental health has expanded and we recognize its long-term impact on child health.

A program evaluation (Roger, 2021) of our Happy Mama Healthy Baby Community Doula Program (n=15) showed that we have achieved our goals of lowering cesarean sections (25%) and increasing vaginal births (75%), especially among African-American women who have the highest rate of cesarean in Los Angeles County and the USA,  reducing premature births (0%) and Low birth weight (0%),  maternal deaths (0%), increasing exclusive breastfeeding initiation (100%), and identifying mothers with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (45%) and making needed referrals for treatment. 

With pandemic-relief monies received in 2020, we hired community doulas to provide virtual labor support to anxious mothers giving birth during the first months of COVID-19. We used the slogan, “We are still here, and you are not alone.”

In 2021, our collaboration with Federally-Qualified Health Clinic (FQHC)  Venice Family Clinic began. We implemented a clinic doula program for VFC’s prenatal patients. Our collaboration is the first doula organization-FQHC collaboration of it’s kind in Los Angeles County and we serve 90 women per year in this program and our birth outcomes are superior to LA County overall, showing the real impact that can be made when medical and social care organizations work together.

Also, this year, we established our company in Ghana, West Africa, positioning ourselves to work on Safe Motherhood Initiatives through our Birth Worker Cultural Exchange Program.

In 2022, we became one of Heluna Health’s programs. They support us in various ways, helping us to achieve our mission and reach more mothers and families in need. 


In 2020, we established the DBA Happy Mama Healthy Baby Alliance as a training and advocacy organization with a focus on maternal and infant mental health. Our slogan, “Happy Mamas Growing Healthy Babies,” reflects our expanded focus. The Alliance offers training and mentorship opportunities for perinatal professionals, as well as networking and learning opportunities.

MFCI Awareness Day Schedule of Events, 2017.

We aim to improve maternal-infant health, reduce health inequities and disparities, enhance maternity care quality, lower maternity care expenses, increase access to midwives and doulas, and promote evidence-based and respectful maternity care by bringing together professionals from various disciplines to bridge the gaps between doula care and midwifery and medicine.

Our main program is the Happy Mama Healthy Baby Community Doula Program. The Community-Based Doula Model is an innovative approach to addressing seemingly intransigent ethnic perinatal health disparities through advocacy, health education, and physical and emotional support.

 Our training and classes are trauma-informed, evidence-based, and culturally aware, promoting social justice in health. We have continued to offer community-based doula support to low-income, mostly BIPOC families because we believe every family deserves a doula.


  • Design community-based initiatives and strategies, engage and mobilize stakeholders to improve maternal and child health in their jurisdictions.
  • Create networking and continuing education opportunities for perinatal professionals: seminars, conferences, webinars, panel discussions, film screenings, etc.
  • Provide free and low-cost doula, lactation support, and childbirth education for low-income pregnant women and adolescents. 
  • Implement programs to improve maternal and infant health through consulting with ministries of health, health plans, clinics, hospitals, and non-profit/nongovernmental programs to provide evidence-based, mother and baby-centered, holistic, and respectful maternity care programs aimed to address perinatal and child health inequities and disparities.
  • Provide training and certification programs in maternity care for health and human service providers and community members.


Our trainings include Community  Birth Doula Training, Perinatal Support Specialist Training,  Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Training, Heart and Hands Postpartum Doula Training, and Childbirth Educator Training for Health and Human Service Professionals.


We receive fee-for-service income from our professional training programs, conferences, webinars, and classes. We have worked with dozens of agencies, including:

  • Heluna Health, City of Industry, CA
  • Venice Family Clinic, Venice, CA
  • Scripps Hospital Power Moms Project, San Diego, CA
  • Wellnest Emotional Support & Wellbeing, South Los Angeles, CA
  • Pasadena Public Health Department Black Infant Health Program, Pasadena, CA
  • Black Women Birthing Justice, Oakland, CA
  • Prototypes Black Infant Health Program, Pomona, CA
  • Prototypes Health Right 360, Pomona, CA
  • Human Rights in Childbirth, Portland, OR
  • Therapeutic Play Foundation, Pasadena, CA
  • Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, Promatora de Salud/Community Health Promoter Program – Los Angeles, CA
  • UCLA Center for Health Promotion, Neighborhood Mother-Mentor Program – Pico Union Neighborhood of Los Angeles. CA
  • Maternal Child Health Access, Welcome Baby! Pilot Program, Los Angeles, CA
  • Health & Human Services Association of Martin & Faribault County, Blue Earth, MN

    Perinatal Support Specialist Training. Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, South Los Angeles, CA (2017)


  • Nile Sisters Development Association, San Diego, CA
  • Fremont County Breastfeeding Coalition, Canon, Colorado
  • El Nido Family Services, Los Angeles, CA
  • Pacific Clinics, Los Angeles, CA
  • Childcare Resource Center, Los Angeles, CA
  • Human Services Association, Bell Gardens, CA
  • Health Net, Inc. – Los Angeles, CA
  • Fresno Department of Public Health, Fresno, CA
  • University Muslim Medical Association (UMMA)  Clinic – South Los Angeles, CA
  • Pediatric Therapy Network, Torrance, CA
  • Community Health Alliance of Pasadena (CHAP) Clinic, Pasadena, CA
  • Benevolence Industries Inc. Central Medical Clinic, Crenshaw District,  Los Angeles, CA
  • All Care One Health Center Inc.,  San Fernando Valley & East Los Angeles, CA


Training and Certification Programs

Our trainings include Community  Birth Doula Training, Perinatal Support Specialist Training,  Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Training, Heart and Hands Postpartum Doula Training, and Childbirth Educator Training for Health and Human Service Professionals.

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 challenging 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. Christine Morton, Ph.D. (Sociologist/Researcher at California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative at Stanford University)

 Dr. Chinyere Oparah (Editor and Co-Founder Blackof of  Women Birthing Justice)

Dr. Robbie Davis-Floyd (Medical Anthropologist and author of Birth as An American Rite of Passage).

Hermine Hayes-Klein, JD (Human Rights/Birth Justice Attorney and Founder of Human Rights in Childbirth).

Paula X.Rojas, LM, CPM (Co-Founder of Mamas of Color Rising).

Ena Suseth Valladares (California Latinas for Reproductive Justice).

Dr. Sayida Peprah, Psy.D., Perinatal Psychologist


Healthy Mama Happy Baby Alliance is a DBA of Wholistic Midwifery School of Southern California, a public charity. We are exempt from federal income tax under section 501 (c) 3 of the IRS code. Contributions to our organization are tax-deductible under section 170 of the code. We can receive tax-deductible requests, devices, transfers, or gifts under sections 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the code.

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