How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime- A Pediatrician’s View

By: Caitlyn Brown 

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Pexels[Happy Kids by Maggie Zhao, CC0]
Humanity has a fascination with longevity and health. There are hundreds of stories of individuals searching for eternal life and a way to conquer death. In reality, humanity is constantly under attack by ailments, diseases, and other threats to our well-being. While we have made significant progress over the years in our research and understanding of health  (we know to avoid certain substances, limit particular foods and steer clear of dangerous things),  there has been a large gap of acknowledgment and understanding regarding the potential impact studied by the ACEs.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris describes her entry into the medical profession. Like many other physicians fresh out of their residency, Dr. Harris wanted to do the most she could for the most amount of people. Her practice in San Francisco saw 10,000+ children and despite the top quality care, Dr. Harris and her team continued to encounter a problem between the presentation of symptoms rooted in behavior, like ADHD, and actual diagnosis. It was not until Dr. Harris was given the study by Kaiser Permanente and the CDC, The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, that she was able to see a solution to her practices problems.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study tested over 17,500 adults to see if previous exposure to something traumatic in childhood was correlated with health and well-being as adults. The results of this study were not only statistically significant, but had a significant impact on how doctors and medical professionals understand exposure, health, and development. This study found that exposure to adversity has a lasting impact on the brain, changing the structures of areas that control impulses, behaviors, executive functioning and many others. These structural changes, caused by the constant exposure to adversity, have long-term effects on the health of an individual. Some of the potential correlated health problems that that could originate from an individual’s adverse experiences are: hepatitis, heart-disease, depression, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and many others.

If you would like to hear directly from Dr. Harris about this topic and her experience, you can view her TED Talk here:

Unfortunately, while this study is widely accepted, it is not necessarily widely known. Dr. Harris, like many others, believes that in order to have the best clinical practice you must be aware of the most effective clinical treatment protocols. The impact that adverse childhood experiences have is too great to be overlooked. If you would like to know more about the ACEs study, Dr. Harris or what your ACEs score is, check out our other resources and our upcoming webinar on August 17th at 11am Eastern.

This post was written by  Caitlyn Brown of the  MFLN Family Development Team. The Family Development team aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network Family Development team on our websiteFacebook, and Twitter.

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