Early Foundations for a Lifetime of Health and Wellness
Christine Garver-Apgar, Research Associate
In 1998, a landmark study of over 17,000 adults found a strong association between childhood exposure to abuse or household dysfunction and multiple risk factors for several of the leading causes of death in adults.1 The more different types of adversity a person experienced during childhood, the higher their risk for heart disease, lung disease, cancer, substance abuse, depression and suicide, obesity, and risky sexual behavior later in life. This study helped pave the way for a paradigmatic shift in the pediatric community’s approach to health and well-being. Reducing the incidence of infectious disease is no longer the sole (or even primary) concern for pediatric healthcare providers. In a recent policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics said, “Protecting young children from adversity is a promising, science-based strategy to address many of the most persistent and costly problems facing contemporary society, including limited educational achievement, diminished economic productivity, criminality, and disparities in health.” Indeed, persistent stress and adversity in early childhood now play an important causal role in the intergenerational transmission of poor health and disease.