Director of Health Initiatives
BioEsperanza Felicidad Cantú is the director of health initiatives at the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, where she partners with community organizations and public health agencies to improve community health. In addition to supporting United Way’s Community Information ExchangeTM efforts, she helped direct nearly $2 million in grants and technical assistance to organizations fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in under-resourced communities in Southeast Michigan. Originally from Monte Alto, Texas, she has worked in areas including community health planning, quality improvement, coalition building, and data and research for over ten years. Prior to United Way, she coordinated a citywide strategic planning process among nearly 2,000 residents and other stakeholders to address community health priorities in Detroit. The National Network of Public Health Institutes recognized this work at the 2019 Open Forum for Quality Improvement and Innovation in Public Health for integrating health equity into community assessment and planning.
For six years, she served on the statewide Hispanic and Latino Commission of Michigan, which advises the Governor, Legislature, and other state departments about priorities of the Hispanic and Latino population. She is a Senior Fellow for Health Equity through the Atlantic Institute and George Washington University, completed the Detroit Equity Action Lab fellowship through the Wayne State University Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights, and completed a W.K. Kellogg Foundation Population Health Fellowship through the Detroit Wayne County Health Authority. She holds a master's degree in public health through the University of Michigan's executive health management and policy program, and a bachelor's degree in biology from Kalamazoo College, where she received the 2022 Young Alumni Award for outstanding achievement, personal growth, and service. Esperanza lives in Detroit with her husband Micah and daughters Maitea and Nenah.