Giving Compass' Take:

• The CDC-Kaiser Adverse Childhood Experiences Study revealed the long-term physical and mental effects of victims of childhood trauma.

• How can philanthropy help children cope with childhood trauma to improve their health outcomes? 

• Learn more about childhood abuse

For millions of children in the U.S., poverty, neglect or abuse is a reality of everyday life, though these struggles are often hidden from view.

Adult survivors often feel ashamed about and stigmatized for their childhood adversity. This makes it difficult to recognize that these events occur.

While it’s easier to turn away than to face these issues, we can no longer afford to do so. Stress, mental illness and substance abuse – all health outcomes linked to childhood trauma – occur in the U.S. today at very high rates.

In the early 1990s, Vincent Felitti, a physician at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, questioned why patients who successfully lost weight dropped out of a weight loss program. He could not make sense of it. He interviewed each patient individually and learned that the weight loss made patients feel vulnerable. A large proportion of the patients disclosed experiences of childhood sexual abuse. The weight protected them.

Felitti’s findings caught the interest of Dr. Robert Anda at the CDC. Together, they launched the CDC-Kaiser Adverse Childhood Experiences Study.

The ACE Study was one of the first and largest research efforts conducted to examine the impact of childhood trauma on health decades later.

From 1995 to 1997, more than 17,000 adult members of Kaiser Permanente in San Diego took part in the study. Researchers gathered information on their health and behaviors.

The ACE Study offered groundbreaking insight into childhood trauma.

First, the ACE Study showed that childhood trauma is very common, even among white, highly educated adults with health care.

Read the full article about childhood trauma and mental and physical health by Shanta R. Dube at The Conversation.