First ‘State of the Child Summit’ highlights opportunities to improve child health and well-being outcomes

The event, which gathered more than 250 parents, community organizations, industry leaders, and legislators, examined the landscape around critical issues impacting child health and well-being.

By: Emily Blevins | May 2024

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RALEIGH– NC Child, a statewide 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and the North Carolina Institute of Medicine (NCIOM), a nonprofit health policy organization, hosted their inaugural State of the Child Summit in Raleigh, North Carolina. The event, which gathered more than 250 parents, community organizations, industry leaders, and legislators, examined the landscape around critical issues impacting child health and well-being.  

“NC Child and NCIOM have worked together for more than 25 years,” said NCIOM President & CEO Michelle Ries. “Most notably on the biannual Child Health Report Card, which is a critical informational resource for parents, lawmakers, and child and public health practitioners.” The Child Health Report Card tracks key indicators of child health and wellbeing in the areas of infant health, healthcare access, safety, and health risk factors, and provides additional insights around infant mortality, child poverty, and child fatalities.  

“Throughout our partnership, we’ve focused on educating and engaging with those who work in child health and wellbeing,” says NC Child Executive Director Erica Palmer Smith. “Given the importance of these issues, we decided it was time for us to come together for a more in-depth conversation around the health and wellbeing of our children.”

The State of the Child Summit was held at Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh and featured more than 30 speakers from the North Carolina General Assembly, national organizations, local and state government agencies, child-focused community organizations, and leaders from North Carolina’s business community.  

The event offered panels that covered the burgeoning crisis around North Carolina’s early childhood education system, the need for mental health resources in schools, infant and maternal health outcomes, challenges within the child welfare system, pediatric oral health, and family economic security.  

In “The ABCs of ECE,” the panel on North Carolina’s early childhood education system, Charlotte Regional Business Alliance Chief Advocacy Officer Joe Bost, said that child care access and availability creates a “competitiveness issue” for attracting businesses—and their workforce—to the state. “If we don’t focus our attention on winning the war on talent, North Carolina and the Charlotte region is going to be less competitive in the short, medium, and long term,” said Bost.  

“Steady access to high quality early education programs has a profound impact on lifelong learning outcomes,” said Smith. “And having a range of accessible and affordable child care options means that parents can make the best decisions for their financial wellbeing and for the short- and long-term wellbeing of their children.” 

In addition to sharing the most current information on the landscape around key child health and well-being issues, the Summit also offered attendees opportunities to hear directly from children and youth about their own experiences. Gracie Parker, an 11-year-old from Macon County, shared about how her advocacy around youth mental health in her school shined a light on just how much need there was for resources in her community. NC Child Youth Advocacy Council members Avani Narayanan, Chase Howard, and Johnathan Campos also shared with attendees about the need for mental health resources for North Carolina’s youth.  

According to NC Child and NCIOM’s most recent Child Health Report Card, more than 1 in 5 high school students report they have seriously considered attempting suicide; 1 in 10 have reported making an attempt. “The stats on youth mental health are there, but it’s us and our peers that live that reality,” said Howard, who serves as president of the Youth Advocacy Council. “We want to start conversations, educate, and help implement action around youth mental health.”  

The State of the Child Summit also highlighted key data around child poverty, food insecurity, and the rising costs of childcare. According to NC Child, over 40 percent of children live in poor or low-income homes, and 15 percent live in households that are food insecure. The average cost of center-based child care in North Carolina is nearly $13,000 per year for an infant and over $11,000 per year for toddlers.  

“At the end of the day, the ‘State of the Child’ is really a report card for adults,” said Smith. “Through the advocacy and implementation of sound, evidence-based public policies, we have the opportunity to ensure that North Carolina’s children can have brighter, healthier, happier futures.”  

About NC Child  

NC Child is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that advances public policies that improve the lives of all North Carolina Children. As the state’s only multi-issue child advocacy organization, NC Child’s work addresses policies that affect the whole child, including health and wellbeing, early childhood education, and family economic security. NC Child is also a leading source of state-level research and data on the issues affecting children and families, and the organization serves as a trusted and reliable source for policymakers and other child advocates and organizations across the state. For more information, visit   

About the North Carolina Institute of Medicine

The North Carolina Institute of Medicine (NCIOM) is forward-looking and focused on solutions. The organization was founded in 1983 by the North Carolina General Assembly to serve as a source of non-partisan information and analysis to promote effective health policies focused on improving the health and well-being of North Carolinians. Learn more at