Healthy eating. A good night’s rest. Filling your life with happy times. These are three of the most important elements of a healthy life according to Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-Miami). Wilson is known as one of the leading advocates in Congress fighting for legislation to improve the health of low-income and disadvantaged Americans. She recently sat down for an interview with Heart & Soul Magazine to discuss her perspective on health issues facing communities of color.
When asked about her driving motivation behind her decades long fight to increase health outcomes for others, Wilson quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who stated that “of all forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman.” One of Wilson’s earliest achievements in addressing this injustice was during her time as an educator and principal in South Florida public schools. Then Principal Wilson pioneered a program in her school that provided students access to a salad bar during lunch. This simple addition to the school cafeteria was a remarkable success. Wilson says she observed that students “started to choose a salad over pizza or fried foods” during lunch and that many students took their healthy eating habits back home to their families.
Wilson continued to be an advocate for healthier lifestyles when she decided to enter politics. As both a member of the Florida State Legislature and now as a member of the U.S. Congress, Wilson has sponsored and co-sponsored numerous bills to improve health outcomes for her constituents. She says that “preventative care is key” to improving health for communities of color. Some of her most impactful accomplishments in this area includes securing funding for multiple community health clinics in her district, including the Frederica Wilson and Juanita Mann Health Center in Liberty City, FL, that was named in her honor. These clinics provide vital health services such as preventative primary care, health screenings, wellness education, and a nutrition program for women, infants, and children.
Speaking about the future of health issues in America, Wilson notes that the new “face of HIV/AIDS is now women of color” and that teaching adolescence girls and boys about sexual reproductive health is essential to prevent the threat from growing. She has partnered with Walgreens to provide HIV screenings to low-income residents and she also founded the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence Project to provide mentoring, including on sexual health, to at-risk boys in high school.
Wilson also believes the future of healthcare in America is under threat because there is “someone occupying the White House… who cares absolutely nothing” about the most vulnerable communities and Republicans in control of the federal government are “rolling back all kind of regulations that provide cheaper insurance plans and cover pre-existing conditions.” She says the Congressional Black Caucus recognizes this threat and continues to fight to advance their priorities in Congress.
The theme for the Congressional Black Caucus’ 48th Annual Legislative Conference, taking place on September 12-14 in Washington DC, is Courage, Resilience, Leadership & Legislation. Health advocates like Congresswoman Frederica Wilson are the embodiment of this theme and continue to provide courageous leadership to advance health issues in America.