Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) impact an individual long-term. Dr. Vince Felitti from Kaiser Permanente and Dr. Bob Anda from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a research to study how childhood trauma impacts health outcomes. In their investigation, they tracked the number of ACEs of over seventeen thousand individuals and then compared these to the participants’ health outcomes. The study has shown a correlation between adverse childhood experiences and the health and social problems an individual encounters over his or her lifetime.
The potential ill effects of childhood trauma are troubling. ACEs can dramatically increase the risk for seven out of ten of the leading causes of death in the United States. Childhood trauma can impact the development of the brain and the immune system. There are also findings that individuals who experienced childhood trauma are at a triple risk for heart disease and lung cancer. Other areas where risks are increased include hepatitis, ischemic heart disease, depression, and suicide. The impact of childhood trauma is not confined to an individual’s health prospects, however, and also spills over into other areas.
In her TED talk, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris breaks down how the stresses associated with abuse, neglect, and parental difficulties—which can range from mental health or substance abuse struggles to separation or domestic violence—affect a child in the short and long term. Yet, she points out that in spite of these high stakes, doctors are not yet trained in routing screening or treatment of this ailment. She then recounts her personal journey to discovering the impact of childhood trauma and explains how she implements this knowledge to screen and address the ramifications of ACEs. Ultimately, Dr. Burke advocates for increased awareness regarding this threat, as well as a proactive approach to addressing it in order to minimize its potential detrimental effects.
However, we cannot leave it to the medical field to address and work towards eradicating the ill effects of childhood trauma. Rather, it will take a concerted effort from all actors that are able to help secure safe environments and provide appropriate interventions when necessary. For this reason, the Center for Children, Law & Policy’s Zealous Advocacy Conference later this summer will be focusing on adverse childhood experiences. Please be on the lookout over the next few weeks for more information regarding specific conference details.
Image from http://news.rutgers.edu/news/study-links-early-childhood-trauma-kindergarten-behavior-problems-poor-performance/20160118#.VxOvMGMoFSU.