Anthony Santiago is the Program and Partnership Developer Director at the National League of Cities (NLC), Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. As a new member of NEHA, Anthony introduces himself and his work improving the lives of children and families nationwide. He discusses how NLC has become intertwined with environmental health and their contributions to healthy housing projects over the years. Anthony concludes his interview with a valuable piece of advice, “Regardless of the issue you to seek to address or understand, begin by looking far and wide for solutions and potential approaches already in action; then pick up the phone.”
NEHA: How did you get started in your career with National League of Cities?
Anthony: I first connected with NLC as a city official, whose municipality had been on the receiving end of a NLC technical assistance grant I was managing. Having had that experience and appreciation of what NLC does to support policy makers, it was a pleasure and a privilege to jump onto the other side of the equation.
NEHA: What makes your work worthwhile?
Anthony: I work for NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families where all our collective energies are focused on one overall result, improving outcomes for children and families in the United States. My entire professional career has revolved around this same result in one form or another, but at the local level. For me, there is no greater professional satisfaction than being in a position to support municipal officials and their efforts to improve conditions of wellbeing in their communities.
NEHA: Tell us how your work with the National League of Cities intersects with environmental health?
Anthony: In 2015 we started exploring the housing policies of various municipalities in addressing indoor environmental hazards. Since then, through a partnership with HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes and national foundations, we have been collecting policy approaches in dealing with indoor environmental hazards, and sharing those promising approaches with other municipal policy makers through peer-to peer exchanges and now online learning opportunities. Last year, we even launched a Mayor’s Action Challenge for Lead Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods. The goal of the Action Challenge is to provide a framework for local policy makers to either begin or advance their healthy housing efforts.
NEHA: You joined NEHA as a member this past July, what value do you find in being a member of NEHA?
Anthony: Simply put: Networking, peer learning, and access to best practices. There is no greater single collection of environmental health thought leaders and on the ground program teams from around the country, than those available to members of NEHA. I have found it to be an incredibly valuable professional association for an individual and/or organization to advance their environmental health agenda.
NEHA: What advice would you give to students and young professionals who are just starting out in their careers?
Anthony: Regardless of the issue you to seek to address or understand, begin by looking far and wide for solutions and potential approaches already in action; then pick up the phone. I have always found a willing participant on the other end, especially if you have a common connection like NEHA affiliation. All those in public service know what it is to have a challenge and are typically willing to share lessons learned with a curious mind.
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