State sur­geon gen­eral to visit

Town hall with McGuire set for Thurs­day evening

Times Standard (Eureka) - - LOCAL NEWS - By So­nia Waraich swaraich@times-stan­

A grow­ing body of re­search is rec­og­niz­ing that neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ences early on in the lives of chil­dren can have last­ing con­se­quences for their health as an adult. Cal­i­for­nia Sur­geon Gen­eral Dr. Nadine Burke Har­ris, who is a pe­di­a­tri­cian with ex­per­tise in ad­verse child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences, has made pre­vent­ing these ex­pe­ri­ences a cor­ner­stone of her ap­proach to pub­lic health in the state.

Burke Har­ris will be join­ing First 5 Hum­boldt and state Sen. Mike McGuire for a town hall on ad­verse child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences in Eu­reka on Thurs­day to learn about ini­tia­tives that are ad­dress­ing those ex­pe­ri­ences lo­cally and talk about her ini­tia­tives ad­dress­ing them at the state level.

“The sci­ence has shown us that child­hood ad­ver­sity is a root cause of many of the great­est pub­lic health chal­lenges we face to­day — in­creas­ing the risk of se­ri­ous con­di­tions rang­ing from heart dis­ease, chronic lung dis­ease, and sui­cide to gun vi­o­lence, do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and sub­stance de­pen­dence,” Burke Har­ris said in a news re­lease. “Ad­verse child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences) im­pact all of our com­mu­ni­ties through­out Cal­i­for­nia and it is an honor to visit Hum­boldt County for the op­por­tu­nity to un­der­stand the lo­cal ap­proaches be­ing taken to ad­dress the im­pacts of this pub­lic health threat.”

The Hum­boldt County Board of Su­per­vi­sors has been al­lo­cat­ing $400,000 ev­ery year for the past three years to ad­dress child­hood trauma, said Mary Ann Hansen, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of First 5 Hum­boldt. Half of that money is given out in the form of com­mu­nity grants to sup­port pro­grams that pre­vent ad­verse child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences, pro­mote re­siliency and pro­vide training in trau­main­formed care.

Re­search has shown that one of the main fac­tors in re­silience,

be­ing able to bounce back from dif­fi­cult life cir­cum­stances, is the pres­ence of a caring and sup­port­ive adult in a child’s life, Hansen said.

“It’s re­ally about con­nec­tion,” she said. “Con­nec­tion helps buffer toxic stress in a child’s life.”

When a child doesn’t have that buffer, that trauma may trig­ger a re­peated and pro­longed ac­ti­va­tion of their stress re­sponse that will ul­ti­mately im­pact how that child’s DNA ex­presses it­self, said Cate Pow­ers, com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor for Of­fice of the Cal­i­for­nia Sur­geon Gen­eral.

“You can mit­i­gate against those im­pacts if you have ap­pro­pri­ate buffer­ing care as a child or you as an adult learn how to man­age the things the child­hood trauma has made you pre­dis­posed to,” Pow­ers said.

Part of the work the county sup­ports in­clud­ing help­ing ed­u­cate par­ents about child devel­op­ment and pro­vide them with con­crete re­sources and sup­ports, Hansen said.

Pro­vid­ing training in trauma-in­formed care to health care providers lo­cally can also help shift their mind­set from “what’s wrong with you to what hap­pened to you,” Hansen said.

“Let’s say some­one comes to a doc­tor and says they’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing chronic pain,” Hansen said. “Maybe their so­lu­tion is a pre­scrip­tion or some life­style changes, but if you’re a trauma-in­formed doc­tor, you might ex­plore a lit­tle more deeply with the pa­tient to find out what their ex­pe­ri­ences have been.”

That may ul­ti­mately change the treat­ment they re­ceive, Pow­ers said, so be­gin­ning this Jan­uary, the state will be­gin re­im­burs­ing physi­cians screen­ing Medi-Cal re­cip­i­ents for ad­verse child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences.

“Ad­verse child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences and toxic stress are es­sen­tially a pub­lic health care cri­sis that, un­til re­cently, have been un­rec­og­nized,” Pow­ers said.

About 16.6% of Hum­boldt County par­ents re­ported their chil­dren ex­pe­ri­enced two or more ad­verse child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences in 2016, com­pared with a statewide rate of 16.4%, ac­cord­ing to Kids­, a pro­gram of the non­profit Lu­cile Packard Foun­da­tion for Chil­dren’s Health.

Ad­verse child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences are “highly preva­lent,” she said, with 63.5% of Cal­i­for­ni­ans hav­ing had at least one of these ex­pe­ri­ences and 17.6% hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced four or more.

These ex­pe­ri­ences cut across all bound­aries, whether so­cioe­co­nomic, race, re­li­gion, gen­der or oth­er­wise, Pow­ers said.

“Ev­ery­one has (ad­verse child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences) ba­si­cally,” Pow­ers said.

While learn­ing what the county and state are do­ing to tackle ad­verse child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences is an im­por­tant part of the town hall, Hansen said they would also like to hear from the com­mu­nity.

“The most im­por­tant thing is to have a con­ver­sa­tion as a com­mu­nity about how we can help sup­port fam­i­lies,” Hansen said.


Dr. Nadine Burke Har­ris, Cal­i­for­nia’s first sur­geon gen­eral, speaks dur­ing a TED Talk on ad­verse child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences. Burke Har­ris is com­ing to Eu­reka on Thurs­day to raise aware­ness about ad­verse child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences and learn about lo­cal ini­tia­tives that are try­ing to pre­vent them.

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