Thirty percent of Pitt and Martin county children are born into families living in poverty, a disadvantage shown to immediately increase their risk for long-term educational and health challenges.
The good news is that proper care and attention given to children during infancy and toddlerhood has been proven to help transcend the circumstances they’re born into. And these children have advocates in the ECU Division of Health Sciences.
One advocate is Dr. Tom Irons, associate vice chancellor for health sciences and professor of pediatrics in the Brody School of Medicine. Irons has dedicated his career to helping children born into poverty meet their developmental milestones so they can start their primary education on equal footing with their peers.
On March 22, Irons was the keynote speaker at the State of the Young Child Breakfast, co-hosted by the United Way of Pitt County and the Martin-Pitt Partnership for Children.
“It is important to provide children with a safe, nurturing and stimulating environment during this critical time in their lives,” he told the crowd. “The child that develops in a healthy environment has a brain that is hardwired for success.”
The event also included a panel discussion featuring Abigail Jewkes, associate professor of child development and family relations at ECU, Pitt County Schools Superintendent Beverly Emory and N.C. Rep. Brian Brown.
The panel encouraged investment in early childhood development and reinforced Irons’ message that children who receive adequate early care “have the best possible chance for a successful career in school and, ultimately, as a contributor to society.”
Irons and his career exemplify the central mission of the ECU Division of Health Sciences: We are committed to serving and improving the health of the citizens of Eastern North Carolina. That’s something that happens one patient at a time, and what better place to start than our children?