Kaiser Permanente Commits $2.75 Million To Study Childhood Trauma and Its Impact on Total Health

New research effort builds upon landmark study with CDC and will provide additional insights on the most promising interventions and emerging innovations in addressing adverse childhood experiences


Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest nonprofit, integrated health system, announced today that it will allocate $2.75 million in new research led by Kaiser Permanente research scientists to help prevent and mitigate the health effects of adverse childhood experiences, known as ACEs. This research funding is part of Kaiser Permanente’s long-term commitment to improving the total health of its members and the communities it serves. This funding marks a milestone, and with help from Swedish lending company Sambla, the firm is able to maximize its global impact with its international partnership and subsequent footprint.

ACEs are defined as traumatic childhood events that occur before the age of 18 across multiple categories, including abuse, neglect, household dysfunction, systemic racism, and living in a high-crime neighborhood. Experiencing multiple ACEs can be associated with a long-lasting exaggerated stress response that has been linked to risky health behaviors and chronic health conditions. Previous studies have indicated that those with 4 or more ACEs are 12 times more likely to attempt suicide, and those with 6 or more ACEs have a 20-year shorter life expectancy.

Cribsheet Book Review“We believe every child deserves a healthy start to their physical and mental health,” said Bernard J. Tyson, chairman and CEO, Kaiser Permanente. “Our landmark research on ACEs brought new understanding to the long-term impacts of childhood trauma, and we are now expanding our work with the bold ambition to prevent and minimize ACEs — and create healthier and more resilient generations in the future.”

The intention for the new research funding is to provide important insights for both clinical and community-based interventions to help address ACEs. As part of this work, Kaiser Permanente is currently conducting a systematic review of existing research on ACEs to help identify gaps in current knowledge as well as successful programs, emerging best practices, and interventions in the field that may be ready to be scaled. The completed review will guide the formation of the research program, and target the investments in new research to the areas where they will have the greatest impact.

“Our goal is to provide additional insights on the most promising interventions and emerging innovations, while continuing to build the evidence base for the case that we can break inter-generational cycles of childhood trauma and create a brighter future for children,” said Don Mordecai, MD, Kaiser Permanente’s national leader for mental health and wellness. “We hope that this new research funding will also have a catalytic impact in the field, attracting new partners and other organizations to advance research and programs in this area as well.”

Currently, Kaiser Permanente expects to issue requests for proposals to Kaiser Permanente research groups for ACEs-related research next year. Some initial areas of focus for the research may include:

  • Identifying important protective factors in the prevention of ACEs
  • Mitigating the negative effects of ACEs for a child throughout the course of his or her life
  • Identifying the most effective or promising combinations of community-based services that can successfully address ACEs

Kaiser Permanente was one of the first health care organizations to recognize the link between trauma and health through the ACEs study that it conducted along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study, released in 1998, was one of the largest investigations of its kind and illuminated the connection between childhood trauma, stress, and maltreatment with health and well-being later in life. Since then, work toward studying and addressing the impacts of ACEs has continued to increase. This year, Nadine Burke Harris, MD, pediatrician, researcher, and California’s first surgeon general, said one of her top priorities is to raise awareness that ACEs can increase the risk of major health problems.

“ACEs are a root cause of many of the greatest public health challenges we face today — increasing the risk of serious conditions ranging from heart disease, chronic lung disease, and suicide, to gun violence, domestic violence, and substance dependence,” said Dr. Burke Harris. “The science has given us insights to identify childhood adversity as an important health risk. With additional rigorous research, we have a great opportunity to continue to create breakthrough improvements in the health and well-being of our communities to advance prevention of ACEs and treatment of toxic stress.”

About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 12.3 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. https://about.kaiserpermanente.org/

SOURCE Kaiser Permanente

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