By Kathleen T. Grimm
We do not need new research on the effects of trauma and violence on children. There is no need to wait for more evidence. There is indisputable, unchallenged evidence about the need to work to create environments that create safety for children’s optimal development.
The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement before the Newtown tragedy that once again called for all of those working with children to recognize the indisputable evidence that toxic stress, violence and trauma in homes, neighborhoods and environments where children live is a significant risk to their health and development.
We have evidence that has continued to be supported in both social science and medical literature going back to the 1980s that validates indisputably the link between adverse events that occur during the early years of children’s lives and their future health.
There is no question that the impact of adverse events in a child’s life have significant effects on adult health.
The complexity of the issue has been acknowledged, yet multiple proposals advanced as “solutions” espouse the view that one linear solution may be enough, i.e., the recent NRA proposal to solve the issue of school violence by placing armed guards in schools.
Legislators who create policy and society at large cannot remain paralyzed while waiting for more evidence, nor can a complex issue be solved with one linear, superficial, unsustainable approach. Band-Aid approaches disguised as prevention have never worked.
Meaningful change needs to address the complexity of this issue, and how socioecological environments of violence and trauma affect all of us. The urgency to create change in future policy should remain focused on those whom we value as our future … all our children. Creating healthy environments for children is the key to economic and social well-being for the future. Policy change cannot be distracted by the cacophony of voices speaking for themselves and the status quo, defending the positions of power and privilege.
Children are voiceless and voteless and have no lobby except for the adult voices that recognize their value.
As Nelson Mandela observed: “Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.”
An issue of childhood health that is large – safety – needs policy that looks at the root cause of disease and addresses change at the root in order to secure their future health. We need change that is substantive, not superficial, and change that recognizes that value of our most precious resource, our children.
Kathleen T. Grimm, M.D., of Buffalo is co-chairwoman of the Community Health Worker Network of Buffalo and a policy committee member of the National Physicians Alliance.