Tom Vitaglione, Senior Fellow, and Nwanne Agada, Children’s Environmental Health Coordinator, with NC Child, are new members to the NC Lead and Healthy Homes Task Force. NC Child is the only statewide child advocacy organization in North Carolina and their mission is to be a voice for North Carolina’s children across a large spectrum including health, safety, juvenile justice and economic stability.
Tom volunteers his time with NC Child on a part-time basis. Before retiring in 2000, Tom served as a Peace Corp volunteer in Malawi, earned his Master’s degree in Public Health from Columbia University, and then worked for the NYC Health Department, which sparked his interest in environmental health. He moved to North Carolina in 1971 and completed a thirty-year career with the state Division of Public Health, with most of it in child health.
Nwanne earned her Bachelor’s degree in Geology from University of Texas, San Antonio and her Master’s degree in Environmental Health from East Carolina University. Prior to joining NC Child, she worked for Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services and Air Alliance Houston, a non-profit organization based in Houston, Texas.
On a day to day basis, Nwanne focuses on learning more about childhood lead poisoning through research on lead poisoning and the effects, and how other states have been able to reduce lead poisoning cases. She meets with other local organizations and partners to learn about who to connect with, and how public policy changes regarding lead poisoning in North Carolina can positively affect the work that they already do. She also works closely with the students and staff from Duke Environmental Law Clinic and writes blog posts about various environmental health issues. Tom’s time is spent supporting NC CLPPP from an advocacy perspective. He says, “we can have a louder voice than they are allowed to have”. He also picks up other tasks across the board relating to children’s health and safety and stays in touch with current policies.
Through her work with NC Child, Nwanne enjoys helping people have a voice and meeting people that share her same interests and passions. The hardest part of her job are the obstacles she faces. She explains, “People aren’t always on the same page, whether because of political beliefs, money, or ignorance, the obstacles get in the way when we try to be someone’s voice.” For Tom, the most exciting aspect of this work is the attempt to make things better, although he admits it takes a lot of perseverance. He does not always get to see the outcome of his labor but occasionally families will thank him for what he’s done for their child, like creating health insurance access. He says, “One time, a mother came up to me and said I want you to know that my child is alive today because of that program. That makes it all worthwhile.”
Tom and Nwanne appreciate the opportunity to meet with local advocates in environmental health through the NC Lead and Healthy Homes Task Force and look forward to expanding their connections through this resource.