Why a pediatrician wants to quantify childhood trauma

Nadine Burke Harris, MD, a pediatrician and California's first surgeon general, is among those raising awareness about a health assessment to quantify adverse childhood experiences, The Washington Post reported May 15.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences term comes from a study published by the CDC and Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente in the late 1990s, which found association between trauma and health. An ACEs score typically assesses a person's experiences with traumas, such as abuse, neglect and witnessing domestic violence, before 18 years old.

Dr. Harris told the Post that she believes more awareness about ACEs — via a new website run by nonprofit ACE Resource Network — can help address emotional and psychological effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The website provides information about ACEs and allows users to take a quiz to learn their score.

Dr. Harris and other supporters of the measure are proponents because they say childhood trauma can be connected to higher likelihood of chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart disease and depression.

However, critics question the usefulness of the measure — since there is not necessarily a definitive healthy or unhealthy score — and note that it does not include other potential traumatic childhood events such as bullying and racism, according to the Post.

Still, Dr. Harris told the newspaper, "When we have a public understanding and a public narrative that early adversity is harmful to our health, it extends our understanding of trauma writ large: racism, immigration and other factors also increase our health risk."

Read the full Post article here. Learn more about the ACE Resource Network here.

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