Dr. Jamila Taylor joined our team as President and CEO in mid-November, 2022. Since then, she has hit the ground running, meeting and talking with many of you along the way. In addition to her work at NWA, she loves to practice yoga, take advantage of what the city of DC has to offer, and catch up with friends. We interviewed Dr. Taylor about her experience in child and maternal health, plans for NWA, and the future of the WIC program. Read her thoughts below.
How did you get involved in this work?
I show up so fiercely for maternal and child health issues because of my experiences as a Black woman and a mother. As a young girl, I watched my aunties and cousins benefit from the WIC program. As a Black woman and a mom, I have personally dealt with maternal healthcare challenges. Thus, I have applied these experiences throughout my career, beginning as a congressional staffer leading health and education efforts for Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA). Since then, I have focused years of my work on maternal and child health disparities.
What got you excited about NWA?
NWA has had such an important role in advancing the WIC program for decades. I’ve seen the work of NWA and its impact for years, even when I was just starting out in my career. Since then, I have watched NWA and the WIC program grow and impact thousands of families across the country. I couldn’t help but be excited about the opportunity to have a role in this organization!
What does it mean to you to step into leadership at NWA?
To me, it means I can be part of a mission and organization that touches so many peoples’ lives. Working alongside our incredible staff and members, I can help shape a better future for moms and babies in this country.
How can we better center equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in the work of NWA?
I think that EDI is often focused solely on internal policies and culture, but it also has to do with external-facing work. So, when I think about NWA and advancing EDI, I think that we can be more proactive in talking about disparities in access to nutrition and where those originate. We should be highlighting the disproportionate impact of these challenges on communities of color. It’s also important to emphasize the history of how we got here when we think about who has access to proper nutrition and healthcare in this country.
EDI should also be a guiding principle in bringing intention to how we think about research, policy, and communications: Are we making sure we have research on the WICHub on disparities and impacts of these disparities in maternal and child health for communities of color? Are we bringing in diverse leaders to speak up when it comes to innovation and advancement of the WIC program? Are we pitching stories to minority serving institutions and news outlets? While there have been advancements when it comes to making this country more fair and equal, we still have a lot of work to do.
What is your favorite fruit or veggie?
While I love fruit, sometimes it can be too sweet for me. I usually go for berries because they are a bit more tart. Generally, I tend to lean more toward vegetables. I absolutely love brussels sprouts, which is interesting because as a child, they were very unappealing. Now,I love to try different recipes with them. Broccoli is another one of my favorites. I love to try out different flavor pairings with green vegetables!
What role do you see NWA playing in the future?
I see NWA continuing to grow as an organization in both staffing and resources but also in terms of reach. We will continue our leadership role in the WIC, nutrition, and maternal and child health spaces. However, I want us to think beyond the usual space we occupy, toward new partnerships and allies. By inviting new organizations and groups to join this work, we can explore new partnerships and expand our footprint. I think this expansion will be essential as we think ahead to big things like Child Nutrition Reauthorization, WIC modernization, and the 50th anniversary of the WIC program in 2024!
What are your biggest goals and priorities as it relates to NWA members?
We will be embarking on a strategic planning process this year that will provide us with a blueprint for the next three to five years. Members are a key part of the work we do at NWA, so I think they should know this is an exciting new chapter for the organization! We will strive to be more strategic about our focus, how we participate in the space, who we work with, and how we develop our policy and research priorities.
It is important for me to get face time with members because every office, geographic location, and individual experience is different in terms of political dynamics, challenges on the ground, and more.
On January 31 at 12pm EST, Dr. Taylor and NWA Board Chair, Paul Throne will come together LIVE for an exciting conversation on WIC, the future of NWA, and more! Use the link below to RSVP and receive the live stream link!