Mr. Thomas Vitaglione, adjunct professor of maternal and child health at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, was selected to receive the 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Child Health Advocate Award. He accepted the award at the annual meeting of the North Carolina Pediatric Society on Aug. 20, in Pinehurst, NC.
[Photo: Mr. Tom Vitaglione]
Mr. Vitaglione, a senior fellow at NC Child, a nonprofit organization that aims to advance public policies that improve the lives of North Carolina’s children, has worked for nearly 50 years to improve children’s health in the state.
From 1970 to 2000, Mr. Vitaglione held various leadership positions in the N.C. Division of Public Health, encouraging collaboration among government entities, health professionals, advocates, nonprofit organizations and others advancing child health. His work helped shape policies regarding minor consent, newborn screening and child death review. Working with many pediatricians, he was an important force in the development of the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
He also served on the Child Fatality Task Force from 1999 to 2011, including several years as co-chair. The task force, a legislative study commission, reviews causes of childhood death and provides recommendations for policies to reduce child death. During his service on the task force, the state began the Graduated Driver License, which has been credited with reducing crashes of 16-year-old drivers by 38 percent and 17-year-old drivers by 20 percent. He has continued to serve as one of the leading child health advocates in his role at NC Child, advancing issues including toxin exposure, child abuse prevention, corporal punishment and breastfeeding promotion.
He was awarded the AAP Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000 and, in 2011, was presented with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, a prestigious award recognizing outstanding service to the state of North Carolina, granted by the state’s governor. The N.C. Pediatric Society recognized Vitaglione’s efforts on behalf of child health by naming its annual advocacy award the Tom Vitaglione Child Health Advocacy Award. It is awarded yearly to an individual or agency from the nonprofit sector for outstanding achievement or advocacy efforts to promote child health.
“Tom Vitaglione is a true child health advocate whose drive and determination has led to policies that improve the health and well-being of children statewide,” said Ms. Elizabeth Hudgins, executive director of the North Carolina Pediatric Society (NCPeds).
Ms. Michelle Hughes, executive director of NC Child, said Mr. Vitaglione was an inspiration to everyone working to improve the lives of North Carolina’s children.
“As I look back at the gains our state has made in child health over the past five decades,” Ms. Hughes said, “I can honestly say that many of those would not have happened without Tom’s persistent and skilled advocacy. He is one of our state’s greatest treasures. We are indebted to him for his decades of advocacy and the positive difference his work has made for tens of thousands of children in North Carolina.”