Rep. Ruth Kagi is a guest columnist for The Sunday Seattle Times

Monday, July 25, 2011

"Washington must confront public-health challenge of childhood trauma

"Guest columnist Ruth Kagi says Washington is leading the nation in confronting the public-health challenges of children who face sustained childhood trauma. Studies show children with such experiences have much higher long-term health risks, including for obesity.

"By Ruth Kagi
Special to The Times

"A NEW study by the Trust for America's Health reveals Washington is one of 10 states in which the obesity rate has increased 90 percent within the past 15 years.

"That we've almost doubled the rate in less than two decades is startling. What is equally worrisome is that obesity isn't only increasing among adults, but among children as well. Two recent Seattle Times articles discuss the state's battle against childhood obesity.

"While various approaches to lowering obesity rates are being pursued, a key finding in another study cannot be disregarded: Young children who experience serious trauma or neglect are more likely to have long-term negative health and other impacts than those who do not — including obesity.

"The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is a decadelong and ongoing collaboration between Kaiser Permanente's Department of Preventive Medicine in San Diego and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With 17,000 participants, it is the largest study of its kind.

"The study's origins came out of obesity research in the 1980s, in which a connection was discovered between physical or sexual abuse in childhood and chronic health problems in adulthood.

"While every child experiences trauma at some time, if there is a parent or other caring adult who can comfort and soothe the child, science indicates there is generally no long-term damage. In fact, through these experiences children learn how to cope with adversity.

"However, if abuse, neglect or other stressful situations in the home are prolonged, chemicals are released that actually alter development of the child's brain."


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