Durham, North Carolina, is a vibrant community that is rapidly growing and changing. It’s also a diverse community. Children in Durham come from a wide variety of ethnic, racial, and national backgrounds. This diversity is a beautiful thing because it contributes to the rich cultural tapestry that makes Durham such a special place to work and live, but it also poses problems.
Significant differences exist among different segments of the overall population when it comes to early childhood experiences, health, and academic achievement—all factors that play an important role in nurturing children and preparing them to become functioning adults. Fortunately, Durham leaders are taking note. They are working to create policy and make community decisions that support parents, children, and families.
This past November, the Durham Board of County Commissioners took an important step in demonstrating their support. They passed a resolution pledging to take community action around becoming an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs) informed community and developing an ACEs community resilience plan. This resolution aligns with recommendations offered by the State of Durham County’s Young Children Task Force.
Key Points in the Resolution:
The Durham Board of County Commissioners is paying attention to the research in neuroscience, molecular biology, public health, genomics, and epigenetics, which reveals that experiences in the first few years of life can affect physical and mental health over a lifetime.
In particular, the resolution affirms the following key points:
A person with four or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) is 2.4 times more likely to have a stroke, 2.2 times more likely to have ischemic heart disease, 2 times more likely to have chronic pulmonary obstructive disease, 171.9 times more likely to have a type of cancer, and 1.6 times more likely to have diabetes.
A person with four or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) is 12.2 times more likely to attempt suicide, 10.3 times more likely to use injection drugs (e.g., heroin), and 227.4 times more likely to be an alcoholic.
Early adverse experiences literally shape the physical architecture of a child’s developing brain.
Strong, frequent, or prolonged stress in childhood caused by adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can become toxic stress impacting the development of a child’s fundamental brain architecture and stress response systems.
Early childhood development offers a unique window of opportunity to prevent and heal the impacts of ACEs and toxic stress on a child’s brain and body.
The emerging science and research on toxic stress and ACEs evidence a growing public health crisis for the state with implications for the state’s educational, juvenile justice, and public health systems.
A critical factor in buffering children from the effects of toxic stress and ACEs is the existence of supportive, stable relationships between children and their families, caregivers, and other important adults in their lives.
The resolution is the first step in developing awareness around helping kids build social and emotional skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.
How You Can Get Involved
With strong leaders who recognize the importance of programs and policies that make parent support a priority, Durham is poised to do big things to improve the lives of our children. But of course, building a community where all our kids can truly thrive takes a team effort.
Here’s how you can easily get involved with these efforts:
By hosting a neighborhood, community, or school viewing and group discussion of the film Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope (or encouraging your local library to do so)
By learning more about how to help children develop the protective factors that shield them from the longer term effects of adverse childhood experiences and traumatic events.
By spreading the word about the programs we offer at EFC:
The very best way to help is to communicate to your friends, family, and neighbors that you are there for them. When we offer positive emotional support to parents and children, we create safe spaces for everyone to open up. Often the most important resource is knowing that you have others to turn to when life gets overwhelming. If you commit to being that strong force of positive energy for the families in your life, you will be amazed at the impact you can make.
All of the above is evidence that our community is unique and on the forefront of putting research into action. Durham leaders are committed to creating appropriate supports for children and families. When we all put forth our energy in the service of strengthening a child’s emotional, social, and cognitive development, everyone thrives! Let’s continue to support our leaders as they support Durham families.