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What kind of world would we have if all doctors approached childhood trauma the way she does?

When Dr. Nadine Burke couldn't figure out what why the kids in her clinic were so sick, she did some digging and here's what she found.

We're obsessed with figuring out what's going to kill us.

When we discover a substance is dangerous, we avoid it and our doctors screen for its effects. When we discover a substance is deadly, our lawmakers ban it and we care for those who have been affected. But what are we doing about this dangerous substance?

Why don't we treat this deadly thing the same way we treat lead, arsenic, or radiation?


Childhood trauma is deadly.

The CDC and Kaiser Permanente developed a 10-point Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) questionnaire to determine respondents' exposure to childhood trauma.

It asked if the respondents had ever experienced:

  • psychological abuse
  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • substance abuse by a parent
  • domestic violence toward their mother
  • or criminal behavior in the household

before age 18.

Then they compared the responses with the medical histories of 17,000 Kaiser Permanente patients.

52% of respondents reported that they had experienced one of the types of traumas measured, and 24% of respondents reported that they had experienced more than one. Substance abuse in the household was the most commonly reported trauma.

The higher the ACE score, the more likely the patient was to have mental health issues. No surprise there.

For every psychological problem they measured, from depression to substance abuse to number of suicide attempts, there was a clear and unmistakable correlation with ACES scores.

But people with high ACE scores were also more likely to have physical ailments as well.

They found a statistically significant correlation between ACES score and heart disease, cancer, chronic bronchitis or emphysema, hepatitis, and history of broken bones.

What does this mean for you, your family, and your health?

No need to panic, but you do need to be proactive. Take the survey for yourself. If you know that you or your child has a high ACE score, find out how to lessen the effects of those traumas. You can start by talking to a licensed health care provider.

We're not good at dealing with childhood trauma. But we need to learn. Our lives depend on it.