Adverse Childhood Experiences

An overwhelming scientific consensus demonstrates that cumulative adversity, particularly during critical and sensitive developmental periods, is a root cause to some of the most harmful, persistent and expensive health challenges facing our nation.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris was appointed as California’s first-ever Surgeon General by Governor Gavin Newsom in January 2019. She is an award-winning physician, researcher and advocate dedicated to changing the way our society responds to childhood trauma.

Dr. Burke Harris’ career has been dedicated to serving vulnerable communities and combating the root causes of health disparities. After completing her residency at Stanford, she founded a clinic in one of San Francisco’s most underserved communities, Bayview Hunters Point. It was there that she observed that, despite the implementation of national best-practices for immunizations, asthma, obesity treatment and other preventive health measures, her patients still faced outsized risks for poor health, development and behavioral outcomes.

Drawing on research from the CDC and Kaiser Permanente, Dr. Burke Harris identified Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) as a major risk factor affecting the health of her patients. ACEs are traumatic events occurring before age 18 and include all types of abuse and neglect as well as parental mental illness, substance use, divorce, incarceration, and domestic violence.

In 2011, she founded the Center for Youth Wellness and subsequently grew the organization to be a national leader in the effort to advance pediatric medicine, raise public awareness, and transform the way society responds to children exposed to Adverse Childhood Experiences and toxic stress. She also founded and led the Bay Area Research Consortium on Toxic Stress and Health, to advance scientific screening and treatment of toxic stress.

Watch Applying the Science of Toxic Stress to Transform Outcomes in California.

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