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Home » How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime: Nadine Burke Harris (Full Transcript)

How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime: Nadine Burke Harris (Full Transcript)

Nadine Burke Harris

Here is the full text and summary of Nadine Burke Harris’ talk titled “How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime”.

TRANSCRIPT:

Nadine Burke Harris – Former Surgeon General of California

In the mid-’90s, the CDC and Kaiser Permanente discovered an exposure that dramatically increased the risk for seven out of 10 of the leading causes of death in the United States. In high doses, it affects brain development, the immune system, hormonal systems, and even the way our DNA is read and transcribed.

Folks who are exposed in very high doses have triple the lifetime risk of heart disease and lung cancer and a 20-year difference in life expectancy. And yet, doctors today are not trained in routine screening or treatment. Now, the exposure I’m talking about is not a pesticide or a packaging chemical. It’s childhood trauma. Okay.

What kind of trauma am I talking about here? I’m not talking about failing a test or losing a basketball game. I am talking about threats that are so severe or pervasive that they literally get under our skin and change our physiology: things like abuse or neglect, or growing up with a parent who struggles with mental illness or substance dependence.

Now, for a long time, I viewed these things in the way I was trained to view them, either as a social problem — refer to social services — or as a mental health problem — refer to mental health services. And then something happened to make me rethink my entire approach. When I finished my residency, I wanted to go someplace where I felt really needed, someplace where I could make a difference.

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