A recent study linked obesity in children to domestic violence. Now, evidence indicates that childhood trauma can spur physical disease later on, when an abused child reaches adulthood. In Alaska, the state is working to reduce adverse childhood experiences to lessen the latent impacts of trauma, and to help reduce the burden on social services programs.Download Audio:In late Februray of this year, the conference room at a downtown Anchorage convention hall buzzed with chatter, in anticipation of keynote speaker, Linda Chamberlain. And Chamberlain has a strong message.“Our early emotional experiences do become part of the architecture, the foundation of our brains. Our brains are incredibly plastic, during childhood, but don’t forget as I talk about this.. until the day you die, your brain is plastic,” she told the audience.The event was a symposium hosted by the state Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. Dr. Chamberlain told the audience that adverse childhood experiences, such as witnessing drug use and domestic violence, can stunt a child’s neurological development.“The younger the child, the more vulnerable the brain is. The thing is, that you will go into a shelter, a domestic violence shelter, and I will see babies with PTSD. I know it right away. They’re avoiding eye contact, they are frozen, inhibited.”The good news, she says, is that, with effort, negative brain wiring can be changed. Chamberlain bases her comments on the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, or ACEs, which was conducted through the Centers For Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente during the late 1990s. Researchers found strong links between childhood traumas and long – term health and economic outcomes. Patrick Scidmore is a planner with the Alaska Mental Health Board.“This is true of people who have ever been diagnosed with depression, people who have asthma, obesity. The negative outcomes are just more likely in the group with high ACES scores.”Scidmore, is and a member of the state Advisory Board on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. His expertise is reading the data, and translating that to more tangible information.“For example, for current smoking, we estimate from our Alaska data, 32 percent of the people who are current smokers would not be smokers if we could eliminate all adverse childhood experiences. And that translates into about $185 million dollars of savings to the state. Not necessarily state government, but across the public and private sector.”]Scidmore says data gathered by the Alaska Division of Public Health during 2013 shows how childhood trauma contributes to chronic disease: for example, thirty percent of asthma sufferers in the state have links to ACES, and almost half of COPD patients have high ACES scores.Since it is more cost effective in human terms to prevent childhood trauma, than to pay for the damage later on, social service providers are seeking ways in which to do that. Communities in several locations in Alaska are working on becoming “Trauma Informed”. Elizabeth Ripley is CEO of the Matanuska Susitna Health Foundation.“Since the ACEs study was released, the brain science has caught up to the science behind the ACEs study, to show that literally, trauma changes the very physiology of the brain. But the good news that Linda Chamberlain shares is that we can heal the brain, but we have to be intentional about it.”Ripley says Mat Su has eight personnel trained in how to inform the public – in schools, law enforcement, and in businesses — on efforts to reframe how we deal with childhood trauma. Especially in school, where children who act out are often misunderstood.“We’ve tended to ask ‘what ‘s wrong with you?’ And this changes the framework to ‘what happened to you?”Ripley says a cohort of Alaskans have worked with the original authors of the ACEs study to train 25 people from around the state to help by providing information about the prevalence and impacts of child trauma“The information about the fact that people can heal, and that we can build resilience and help people heal from the trauma and have brighter futures, is really incredibly revelatory to most people.”She says creating resilience is the key, and that just informing the public and private sectors that touch children is a huge part of the effort. Mat Su joins Homer, and a half dozen Alaska communities now working to become “trauma informed.”
Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via email, podcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprnListen nowAlaska senators veer apart on family separationsLiz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media – Washington D.C.A gulf has opened between Sens. Murkowski and Sullivan on how to end family separations at the border. She signed a letter asking the attorney general to stop it immediately. Sullivan says it’ll take a new law.Accused of 2016 murders, Palmer man faces possible death sentenceCasey Grove, Alaska Public Media – AnchorageThe U.S. Attorney’s Office in Anchorage says it’s only the third time in the past 25 to 30 years that a formal intent to pursue the death penalty has been filed in an Alaska case.Walker asks Trump administration to protect those with pre-existing conditionsAndrew Kitchenman, KTOO – JuneauAmericans with pre-existing medical conditions are protected under the current federal law in buying individual health insurance. But President Donald Trump’s administration says the protection included in the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. Alaska Governor Bill Walker joined a bipartisan group of eight other governors in support of continuing the protection.ASMI says Chinese tariff increase will not apply to secondary processingDaysha Eaton, KMXT – KodiakSince last week, processors have been waiting to find out whether secondary processing of Alaska fish will be subject to a new 25 percent tariff,New Alaska regs requires oil and gas wells anchor below permafrostRashah McChesney, Alaska’s Energy Desk – JuneauCompanies drilling oil and gas wells in Alaska will now have to dig deep enough to avoid problems stemming from thawing permafrost.AEL&P to share the wealth from corporate tax cutJacob Resneck, KTOO – JuneauRatepayers in Juneau can expect a rebate on their power bills.Palin’s son moves to court program after assaulting fatherAssociated PressTrack Palin has formally entered into a diversion court program after assaulting his father so severely that it left him bleeding from the head.Bolger picked to be new Alaska Supreme Court chief justiceAssociated PressThe Alaska Supreme Court will have a new chief justice, starting July 1.Kalskag negotiating new subsistence fishing regulations with Kuskokwim fishery managersAnna Rose MacArthur, KYUK – BethelHow you fish on the Kuskokwim River depends on where you are. And—according to local fishermen— how you fish near Upper and Lower Kalskag is unlike anywhere else on the river.Campbell Creek Science Center offers reward for information on stolen mammoth tuskErin McKinstry, Alaska Public Media – AnchorageSomeone stole a 10,000-year-old mammoth tusk from the Campbell Creek Science Center in March. They’re now offering a $500 reward for information.Tour guides, bear hunters seek solutions after tourists witness a hunt in the TongassElizabeth Jenkins, Alaska’s Energy Desk – JuneauIn January, the two groups got together — in meetings moderated by the forest service — to hatch a plan to keep the hunting guides and small cruise ships from overlapping.