Childhood trauma IS a public health issue and we can prevent them from occurring.
We have federal, state and city agencies that are our nation’s designated resources for saving lives, preventing adversity and assist with picking up the pieces after tragedies. ACEs[Adverse Childhood Experiences], early childhood trauma, are largely avoidable tragedies.
Millions of taxpayer dollars are allocated towards education, child and family services, health and welfare, and more, each population-focused and need-specific. However, ACEs still devastate young lives every day. What this demonstrates, given the prevalence of childhood trauma, is that money can’t be thrown at a problem as a magic bullet.
Truly dedicated mindsets can be most effective, coupled with accompanying efforts, in the prevention of childhood trauma’s negative impact on life, life quality and life trajectory.
There are social workers, family workers, child care workers, and even educators in school settings. Any of them[any of us] can implement targeted strategies to prevent or mitigate the effects of trauma. Understanding that not all trauma is preventable, surely most of them have a window of opportunity to intervene in manners almost guaranteeing minimal to no negative impact of trauma.
Shockingly, one in six people across the United States has experienced four or more kinds of adverse childhood experiences. This data was released by the Centers for Disease Control[CDC].
The CDC’s deputy director made this statement: “Preventing ACEs can help children and adults thrive and has the potential to substantially lower the risk for conditions like asthma, cancer, depressive disorder and diabetes…”.
That 1 out of 6 number represents the CDC’s first estimate of how many Americans are affected by ACEs, as well as the potential benefits of preventing these traumas. The report found that about 60% of Americans experience at least one adverse experience during childhood, and 15.6% experienced four or more different types. Women, American Indian and Alaskan Natives, and African Americans have a higher risk of experiencing four or more types of childhood traumas.
The more types of ACEs, the higher their risk for negative outcomes, which will then greatly limit opportunities throughout life.
Preventing childhood trauma could potentially prevent 1.9 million cases of coronary heart disease in the U.S. It could prevent 2.5 million cases of obesity and 21 million cases of depression. Preventing ACEs could have kept up to 1.5 million children from dropping out of school.
Numerous studies have shown that there are many ways to prevent ACEs and mitigate the effects after they do occur. In fact, the CDC has compiled a list of proven effective approaches.
Positive childhood experiences and relationships are known to guard against traumatic stress and boost resilience. In full agreement with the CDC, having a stable, reliable person in your life can help you with resilience. That stability and nurturing will help you when you have a stress or a difficult problem [because you] have an outlet and a reliable way to process it and seek help if you need to. This relationship could be with a teacher, a parent, or a neighbor.
Mentoring programs that connect children with caring adults at school, or in the community, have been shown to support children through difficulties in their lives. In fact, supportive, nurturing relationships and environments for both children and families are at the heart of prevention, according to the report, which describes six approaches to prevention. Those approaches include strengthening economic support for families, helping parents and youth better handle stress, as well as improved access to primary care to screen, identify and address childhood trauma when it occurs.
Medical doctors, particularly Pediatricians, have an important role to play in preventing or mitigating the effects of trauma. Incorporating a trauma-informed framework into their practices is a wise decision. The potential health effects of trauma can be addressed early. They can organize practices around protocols to recognize adversity, abuse or neglect, before government-sponsored agencies intervene. Often times, this intervention occurs too late for prevention of repeated trauma.
There are many programs that can be used in primary care. They provide ways in which offices can organize their efforts around identifying and intervening in maltreatment and other adversity. The Safe Environment for Every Kid (SEEK) model has been effective in giving tools to clinicians to reduce child maltreatment.
We all can play an important role in preventing ACEs and mitigating childhood trauma. Schools, churches and faith-based organizations, businesses, parents, families, and government agencies- all can help prevent childhood trauma. It IS a public health issue, and we are the public. Be a mentor or just a good friend. Be a role model of strength and resilience. Start a youth or parent/family program in your community, at work or at your school. Help is what we can all give to protect a child and strengthen a family…..today!