Faculty + Staff

In memoriam: Loretta Jones, 77, champion for better health care in underserved communities

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Loretta Jones
Reed Hutchinson/UCLA

Loretta Jones

Loretta Jones, a passionate health policy advocate who for four decades committed her life to eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in health care outcomes and who served as associate director of the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute, died Nov. 22 from esophageal cancer. She was 77.

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 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.

For her career of working to address inequalities 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.

Jones, who was a native of Tewksbury, Massachusetts, spent 10 years in foster care as child, an experience that fueled her desire to serve others. She fostered more than 20 children, including teen mothers with their babies and youth with mental disabilities. Jones mentored young people who had dropped out of high school, encouraging them to continue their education. Many went on to college; some received doctorate degrees. She also mentored hundreds of physicians, nurses, public health practitioners, social scientists and community members. Her mentees went on to become tenured faculty members at medical schools, the current Delaware secretary of health and social services and senior advisers in Congress and the White House. Jones continued to meet with her mentees up to the day before she died.

Jones received her bachelor of arts degree in psychology in 1963 and master’s degree in criminal justice in 1972 both from Northeastern University in Boston. She was also awarded two honorary doctorates, including one from Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. Jones 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.

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.

Jones is survived by her daughter, Felica Jones, and three grandchildren.

A viewing will be held Nov. 29, 2018 from 1 to 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.

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