Adverse childhood experiences can lead to health risks

By Dr. Neil Kaneshiro
Thursday, January 24, 2019
Mom with daughter


Food, shelter and clothing are all essential for growing children. They’re like three legs on a chair. The fourth leg is having a safe, loving family so kids can grow into fully functioning people.

Early family life has a greater impact on overall health than once thought. It’s why Premera is supporting behavioral health treatment access for healthy families through our Premera Social Impact Program

Children who live under high stress every day are at risk for lower immunity, increased infections and behavioral health issues. There are physical and mental consequences from not having optimal care.

The Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente reported that children who experience trauma, or Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), before age 18 have a greater risk of developing physical and behavioral health problems later. ACEs include abuse, neglect and home environment stressors like divorce or violence. 

Some ACEs-related health risks include:   

  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Shorter life span
  • Substance abuse

Since childhood trauma changes the way the human brain develops, early intervention through education and referral is key to preventing ACEs and their resulting problems.

Raising children is hard work, but it’s critically important to break cycles of health problems, violence and poverty that affect families. Emotional support for children isn’t optional. Sometimes it’s so important that it overrides everything else.

Even if the impact from childhood trauma doesn’t show up until adulthood, there’s room for hope and help:

  • Learn about ACEs.
  • Talk with your primary care provider for referrals.
  • Don’t know where to begin? Personal Health Support Services clinicians can help with community resources and treatment.
  • Many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs.
  • Contact the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Helpline for additional resources/support groups: 800.950.6264.

Dr. Neil Kaneshiro is a pediatrician at Woodinville Pediatrics and a medical director of Medical Policy at Premera Blue Cross.

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