October 20, 2015
Pictured at the capital (L to R): Rep. LaTonya Johnson, Rep. Joan Ballweg, LaShawndra Vernon, Sen. Nikiya Harris Dodd, Kim Hamilton-Diaz and daughter.
On October 13, 2015 United Way was invited to be part of the Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families (LIHF) Day at the Capitol, an advocacy trip to raise awareness about infant prematurity. The theme was Save Our Babies: Reducing Infant Mortality by Preventing Prematurity. LaShawndra Vernon from United Way's Community Impact team leads the Milwaukee Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families, shared what they were able to achieve with help from Wisconsin legislators Sen. Nikiya Harris-Dodd, Rep. LaTonya Johnson and Rep. Joan Ballweg.
Q: What was the LIHF Day at the Capitol all about?
We invited all Wisconsin state senators and representatives to a presentation on improving birth outcomes and preventing risk factors, with a strong focus on preventing prematurity. Our goal was to secure a bi-partisan legislative council study committee to consider recommendations to address risk factors that contribute to prematurity. Additionally, we hoped to inform legislation that expands health care practice, strengthens fatherhood involvement and advances economic security for families in Wisconsin.
Q: What were you hoping to achieve?
In terms of expanding health care coverage, we encouraged lawmakers to support legislation that increases care before, during and after pregnancy that would improve and increases access to quality mental, behavioral and dental health care.
To strengthen fatherhood involvement, regulatory and state agency policy needs to change-particularly expanding transitional jobs programs to include permanent employment opportunities and increasing restitution to crime victims.
Advancing economic security for families means reducing poverty, and the most effective method for doing this is implementing changes that require action. This includes supporting the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, implementing Medicaid/Medicare parity and expanding access to Medicaid to include billing for community health.
Co-host Rep. Joan Ballweg welcomes legislators and guests to Save Our Babies: Reducing Infant Mortality by Preventing Prematurity.
Q: Did you feel your efforts were successful?
It felt like a real win, because so many legislators showed up-22 in total, including staffers. That was really good as there were lots and lots of bills being discussed that day. It was also great to have participants from across the state – Milwaukee, Madison, Beloit, Wood County, and more attend the event. There were over 40 individuals that attended the presentation and participated in office visits.
Q: What was one of your favorite highlights of the day?
Prematurity costs the state of Wisconsin over $400 million dollars each year. Families experience prematurity in every county in Wisconsin. We were so happy to have parents with their strong babies attend and add their voice to office visits. Connecting their stories of prematurity to policies that can impact the future of community and family health was a very important message for the day.
Learn more about Milwaukee's Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families.
Learn more about prematurity and policy recommendations for Wisconsin.