Three GA Legislators Awarded the Charlotte Wilen Maternal & Infant Health Advocates of the Year Award

Atlanta, Georgia – March 1, 2017 – Last week, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia presented the 2016 Charlotte Wilen Maternal & Infant Health Advocate of the Year Award to three Georgia legislators for their integral work to support the passage of House Bill 649, the Georgia Lactation Consultant Practice Act.

“This law will increase access to clinical care for thousands of Georgia’s breastfeeding mothers and babies, increase initiation and duration rates of breastfeeding, and save the state significant dollars in pediatric medical care,” explained executive director, Elise Blasingame.

“We recognize that it literally took dozens of folks working in various capacities to shepherd the bill to the finish line,” said Merrilee Gober, Chair of the HMHB Public Affairs Committee and longtime member of the Board of Directors. “We want to recognize a few legislators from both sides of the aisle who got behind the bill and put forth extraordinary efforts for its passage.” In presenting these awards, Gober stated the following regarding each honoree’s commitment to the passage of HB 649:

  • Representative Sheila Jones (D-Atlanta): Representative Sheila Jones stepped onto the road with HMHB early, initiating and welding its bi-partisan support for Georgia’s mothers and babies. She provided wisdom and guidance along the way, fielded inquiries, and, most importantly, stepped into the Well to provide her colleagues with a persuasive argument for joining her in voting for its passage.
  • Representative Darrel Ealum (D-Albany): As a career Marine from Albany, Representative Darrel Ealum’s interests were, of course, military and higher education. But, he had room on his agenda, and love in his heart, to address the needs of mothers and babies. He was able to secure support for the legislation from his hospital, Phoebe Putney, which importantly opened the door for other hospital and community support. In addition, even though this bill was not on his formal agenda in executive branch meetings, he spoke of it in every meeting.
  • Senator Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge): Senator Burke lent to the cause his stature and credibility as an OBGyn physician, carrying the bill in the Senate and seeing it through to passage. It was indeed a special delivery– for not just one mother – but for thousands of Georgia’s mothers.

HMHB appreciates their national leadership on this important issue as Georgia is the second state in the nation to have passed this legislation. Seven other states now have similar bills pending, including Massachusetts, Tennessee, New Mexico, and Oregon, based in part, on our own Georgia law.

Since 1973, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia has served as the statewide voice for improved maternal and infant health outcomes and access to healthcare.