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Remembering Loretta Jones, Health Policy Advocate Who Expanded the Role of Communities in Research



UCLA CTSI News Archive


Loretta Jones, ThD, MA, founder and chief executive of Healthy African American Families, is pictured here after receiving the UCLA Medal in 2017. 

Loretta Jones, a health policy advocate who for four decades committed her life to eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in health care and who served as associate director of the CTSI, died Nov. 22 at Santa Monica-UCLA Hospital. She was 77.

The cause was esophageal cancer.

Jones, who was founder and chief executive of Healthy African American Families, is best known for co-developing methods that gave underserved communities a greater role in planning and implementing academic research. Community-partnered participatory research (CPPR) called for transparency, accountability, and equal power-sharing between academics and communities. In 2007, with UCLA professor Kenneth Wells, Jones published the model in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In doing so, she demonstrated another tenet of CPPR — that community members co-author research publications alongside academics.

The model has since been used to conduct research studies in Los Angeles and elsewhere to address such health problems as violence, infant mortality, childhood asthma, diabetes, obesity, depression and stroke.

For her career of working to address inequities in health and health outcomes, Jones was awarded the UCLA Medal, the university's highest honor, in late 2017. 

“By addressing health disparities and promoting health equity — insisting that good health should be a right for all, not just a privilege for the lucky few — she has raised the public profile of health care access as a true social justice issue,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, as he presented Jones with the UCLA Medal last December.

A native of Tewksbury, Mass., Jones spent 10 years in foster care as child, an experience that fueled her desire to serve others. She fostered more than 20 children, including babies and teens with mental disabilities. She mentored young people who had dropped out of high school, encouraging them to continue their education. Many went on to college; some received advanced degrees,becoming leaders in large health care systems as well as the state and federal government. She continued to meet with her mentees up to the day before she died.

Jones received a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1963 and master's degree in criminal justice in 1972, both from Northeastern University.  She had been community faculty member at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science since 2010. 

Jones founded Healthy African American Families in 1992 to engage universities, think tanks and community members to address disparities in preterm health. She was a co-investigator of the National Institute of Mental Health UCLA/RAND Center for Research on Quality in Managed Care, and of the National Institute on Aging UCLA Center for Health Improvement of Minority Elderly. She was frequently published in Ethnicity & Disease, and co-authored more than 80 peer-reviewed articles.

From 1999 to 2009, Jones was on the community advisory board of the UCLA School of Nursing’s Center for Vulnerable Populations Research, where she played a key role in elevating colleagues’ understanding of the importance of academic-community partnerships in research. She also participated in strategic planning for the center, reviewed grant applications and supported the center’s community activities.

An associate director of the CTSI since 2011, Jones participated in strategic planning, advised junior faculty about community-partnered participatory research, and helped recruit community organizations to research studies.

For more than a decade, she was an associate director of the National Institutes of Health Drew/UCLA Project EXPORT Center, and she was a member of UCLA’s Institutional Review Board for protection of human subjects. In 2016, Dr. Jones was selected to serve on the Institutional Review Board of National Institutes of Health’s “All of Us" program.

Her honors include the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine & Science Legacy Leaders Award and honorary doctorates from Charles Drew University and Christ is the Answer University. Along with Wells and other members of her team, she receive the 2014 Team Science Award from the Association for Clinical and Translational Science for Community Partners in Care, an NIH-funded CPPR project on depression in under-resourced Los Angeles communities.  

Jones emphasized the community’s shared responsibility to ensure that health care is universally accessible. “Everyone deserves the right to live, everyone deserves good health care and we are all responsible for making it happen,” she said. 

Her survivors include her daughter, Felica Jones; grandson, Anthony Brown; two granddaughters, Andrea Gay and Ariel Payne; great-grandson, Drayel Brown; granddaughter-in-law, Ericka Wright; grandson-in-law, Ty Gay; and godson, Jabari Parker.

Viewing will be held Nov. 29, 2018 from 1–6 p.m. at Grace Memorial Chapel and Funeral Home, 3443 Manchester Blvd., Inglewood. A memorial service will be held Nov. 30 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Holman United Methodist Church, 3320 West Adams Blvd., Los Angeles. A reception will immediately follow.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations should be made at the following GoFundMe campaign for Healthy African American Families II; https://www.gofundme.com/protecting-the-legacy-haaf-ii.

Further reading:
LA Times: Loretta Jones, who fought for better healthcare in L.A.'s inner city, dies at 77