Lauren (Lo) Reliford's profile photo

Lauren (Lo) Reliford

Political Director, Sojourners

Lauren (Lo) Reliford's profile photo
Location: Bowie, MD
Start Year: 2022
TRHT Pillar: Separation


Lauren W. Reliford is a passionate and mission-oriented public and population health professional focused on bridging the gap between social theory, spirituality, research, and practice to the forefront of our major policy decisions. She recently earned her Master’s in social work, focusing primarily on the biological impacts of trauma in Black birthing women and the need for policy solutions, such as the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 (S. 346/H.R. 959).

Lauren’s work as a public health lobbyist for ten years prior to graduate school allowed her to address the racist systemic and institutional structures that prevented whole health (physical, mental, behavioral, emotional) for Black and Brown communities, and it is work she is blessed to continue as political director at Sojourners. Lauren also credits her time doing frontline social work during the pandemic as a turning point in her life and career that demonstrated the real need to address the ineligibility requirements in policies and programs that further poverty and oppression for aging and older adults in need.

Though she is a macro social work practitioner, Lauren still engages with the clinical practitioners in the hopes that their direct experience working with her focus populations will help build a bottom-up, middle-out policy formulation process that centers the lived experience of Black and Brown communities. Her hope is to continue the good work and act on her morals and values at a policy level that either creates a space at the table—or builds a new one—for lived experience.

Future Focus

Lauren sees national policy work as attacking the belly of the beast—our federal government—which has done, and continues to do, harm to Black, Brown, and Indigenous folks through policy and politics. From their perspective, our systems continue to do harm because national policy makes a lot of assumptions. It aggregates and generalizes data that erases the diversity of the lived experience. It also feeds on racial biases, prejudices, assumptions, and bigotry that have been embedded in our system since the Pilgrims set foot on this land. Lauren hopes to introduce a federal policy formulation theory that centers the lived experience and includes a consistent feedback loop that allows for disenfranchised voices to have a seat at the head of all discussion tables.

Post-Institute: Transformative Action Plans

Lauren is leading consultative and support work around community participatory action research projects in maternal, newborn, and child health deserts that also have strong histories of racial trauma and violence. She hopes to gain an understanding of what specific resources are needed by community birthing centers based on the unique challenges birthing people face and the unique ways in which racial trauma is expressed and can impact fertility and post-birth/parenting experiences.


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Culture of Health Leaders Institute for Racial Healing

A Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Program