Remembering a Maternal and Infant Health Icon!
Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia (HMHB) celebrates the life of our founder, Charlotte Wilen, who passed away on March 27, 2015 at the age of 93.
Charlotte changed the face of maternal and infant health in Georgia. Women in three generations have benefited from her leadership, her vision and her “roll up your sleeves” dedication to those less fortunate. Her work in maternal and infant health begin in the late 1960’s when, as a member of the Jewish Women International, she collaborated with a consortium of other women’s organizations including the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women, and the Georgia Federation of Women’s Clubs, among others, to address issues associated with inadequate or no prenatal care.
With Charlotte at the helm, and backed by the sound counsel of Dr. Dan Thompson and the late Dr. Newton Long of Emory/Grady, the consortium established “Better Infant Births,” which then led to the legislatively created Maternal and Infant Health Council, better known as the “M&I Council”. The M & I Council was an advisory committee to the Governor on maternal and infant health issues. Charlotte was the first Chair of that Council, with an office in the Capitol!
Under Charlotte’s leadership, the M&I Council held a statewide conference with the participation of over 40 professional groups, community groups, and government agencies to address maternal and infant issues. There was strong consensus at that meeting that Georgia needed a private, non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to continuing the public-private dialogue concerning Georgia’s maternal and infant health issues. In 1974, the “Georgia Continuum Alliance for Human Development” was incorporated with Charlotte as one of the founding board members. In 1992, Continuum Alliance changed its name to “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia” which has continued to fulfill the original promise of working to improve access to healthcare for Georgia’s women and children.
Highlights of her work with Continuum Alliance include leading the federal effort to ensure that no woman in labor could be turned away from a hospital. She testified before the US Congress in favor of the bill that would ultimately become federal law. She also worked with HMHB to create state legislation preventing “drive-through” deliveries. Most recently, Charlotte was even working with HMHB in its efforts to license lactation consultants—having just sent a letter to Governor Deal days before her passing. Charlotte never quit working for the women and children of Georgia!
In addition to her work with Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies, Charlotte is also well known for her work in battling prejudices through the non-profit she founded called “Embracing Differences.”
Every Georgia mother and baby has been the beneficiary of her vision, leadership and advocacy. THANK YOU, Charlotte, for your legacy of service.