Childhood trauma linked to adult health issues

Laura Garcia Bohnet

Children who have repeated experiences of abuse or neglect often suffer poorer health compared to those who don’t experience such abuse, Laura Garcia Bohnet told League members at an Oct. 8 noon meeting. 

Laura, a member of the Kittitas County ACEs and Resilience Task Force, said Washington state is a leader in taking a “trauma-informed” approach to dealing with this problem. ACEs stands for “adverse childhood experiences.” Forms of abuse include physical, emotional or sexual abuse; neglect, and household dysfunction, such as divorce or parental substance abuse, all of which causes toxic stress on the developing brains of children. This affects their ability to deal with future stress and make thoughtful decisions, and contributes to risky behaviors. 

Study of adverse childhood experiences dates back to the 1990s when Dr. Robert Anda of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) teamed up with Dr. Vincent Felitti of Kaiser Permanente in San Diego to see if child abuse could be linked to social and medical issues for adults. Dr. Felitti, who treated obesity, found that half of his patients would drop out of the program despite successfully losing weight, and then later would gain the weight back. After closely questioning these patients about their childhoods, he found that many of the patients had suffered sexual abuse, and came to believe that over-eating was a coping mechanism. 

Under a study funded by the CDC, the two doctors surveyed more than 17,000 patients, finding a link between childhood trauma and poor behavioral and health outcomes. 

If you’d like to learn more about ACEs and take the ACEs quiz, go to this NPR website. Here’s the Washington state health assessment report on ACES. And here are suggestions for preventing and mitigating the effects of childhood trauma. If you’d like to see the original CDC-Kaiser study, go here

The Kittitas County ACEs task force meets in the public health building on Nanum on the third Tuesday of each month at 4 pm. They welcome visitors. 

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