The term "prevention" is typically used to refer to activities that stop or mitigate an action or behavior. It can also be used to define activities that promote positive action or behavior.
Many diseases that appear during adulthood are associated with developmental disorders that begin early in life and that could be greatly reduced by having trauma and stress prevention in childhood.
By the end of the 20th century, mood disorders, substance abuse, and exposure to violence, among other conditions, began to receive increasing attention in the pediatric clinical setting and became known as the Newer Morbidities. Among them are for example:
- School problems, including learning disabilities and attention difficulties.
- Child and adolescent mood and anxiety disorders.
- The alarming increase in adolescent suicide and homicide.
- Firearms in the home.
- School violence.
- Drug and alcohol abuse.
- Human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
- The effects of media on violence, obesity, and sexual activity.
Toxic stress and the developing brain
Scientists have long understood that vital nerve pathways formed during the first 1,000 days of life -from conception to 2 years old- shape the rapidly developing brain. It is well known that these connections require proper nutrition and stimulation. But recent research reveals that a third element, protection, and prevention against violence, is also essential. Exposure to traumatic experiences from a very early age is likely to cause toxic stress, which can result in intense, frequent, and prolonged activation of the body's stress response systems, and even more in the absence of protection and support from an adult.
In addition to observable short-term changes in behavior, toxic stress in young children can result in less externally visible but permanent changes in their brain structure and function if there is not suitable trauma prevention. The plasticity of the fetal, infant, and early childhood brain makes it especially sensitive to chemical influences, and there is growing evidence from studies that persistently high levels of stress hormones can alter its development and can result in anatomical changes and/or physiological dysregulations that are precursors to later learning and behavior disorders, as well as the roots of stress-related chronic physical and mental illnesses.
Identifying the origins of diseases in adulthood and addressing them early in life by proper prevention are critical steps in shifting the focus of the current health care system from a “sick care” model to a “wellness care” model
People with a history of traumatic childhood are more likely, for example, to start drinking alcohol at an earlier age and are more likely to use it as a means of coping with the stress that caused the trauma rather than for social reasons.
Consequences of not having done a childhood trauma prevention
Biological manifestations of toxic stress can include impaired immune function and measurable increases in inflammatory markers, which are known to be associated with cardiovascular disease, viral hepatitis, liver cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, autoimmune diseases, poor health dental, depression, among others.
Therefore, toxic stress in early childhood is not only a risk factor for behavioral changes in the short and medium-term, but it can also be a direct source of alteration or biological damage that can have consequences on the health of the child for life. In such cases, toxic stress can be seen as the trigger for a physiological or biological memory that confers a lifetime risk well beyond its point of origin, which makes it crucial the prevention.
Over and above its toll on individuals, it is also important to address the enormous social and economic costs of toxic stress and its consequences for all of society. The multiple dimensions of these costs extend from differential levels of civic participation and their impacts on the quality of community life to the health and skills of the nation’s workforce and its ability to participate successfully in a global economy.
When a child's biological systems are strengthened by positive early experiences, the individual is more likely to develop properly, grow, and become a healthy adult. Good health in early childhood provides a solid and essential foundation for building strong brain architecture and gaining a wide range of learning skills and abilities. Together, these constitute the pillars of a vital and sustainable society that invests in its human capital and values the lives of its children. Definitely, the prevention of childhood trauma becomes an important source to contribute to a better society.
Understanding how child abuse increases the risk of various psychiatric, physical, and medical disorders is vital to preventing, anticipating, or treating the consequences of abuse and neglect. Children who experience abuse, neglect, and/or other adverse childhood experiences are also at increased risk for negative health consequences and certain chronic diseases in adulthood.