When Dr. Vincent Felitti started his weight loss clinic, he had no idea it would lead to one of the most groundbreaking discoveries linking traumatic experiences and long-term individual health outcomes.
But that is exactly what he stumbled upon.
In trying to figure out why some patients did significantly better than others over time, he discovered that many of the patients who struggled had experienced similar difficult things in their childhoods. Desiring to understand this phenomenon, he identified 10 common events that linked to negative effects on health and well-being. The identification of these "Adverse Childhood Experiences" in 1998 unlocked a new understanding of how trauma can impact a person throughout life.
Since that time, a wealth of medical studies have confirmed this reality. Evidence suggests that approximately 78% of people in the United States have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetimes. We also know that the incidence of trauma is significantly higher among people with disabilities and those who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. If we are not cautious, we risk re-traumatizing these individuals in our encounters. As a result, we should assume that anyone we meet could have experienced trauma, and use trauma-informed approaches in all our interactions.
That is why our founder, Christine Cowart, is exceptionally excited to be able to address what we know about trauma and how it can affect a person's ability to control their blood sugar levels at the upcoming Weight Neutral 4 Diabetes Control (WN4DC) Symposium! As part of the Health Equity track, this talk will begin to untangle the role of trauma in food choices and diabetes care. Setting the stage for Nikki Estep's talk, "Creating a Safe Container: Trauma-Informed Care for Diabetes," Christine will cover several key takeaways, enabling participants to:
Explain what Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and trauma are, and how they can impact a person’s ability to manage their blood sugar;
Understand how common trauma is, and how to recognize it in their clients; and
Identify ways resilience can be grown, to help clients overcome the pitfalls associated with ACEs and trauma.
The vision of WN4DC is to decrease the disease burden of people with diabetes, by addressing health inequity caused by weight bias and stigma. The organization is dedicated to providing professionals with scientific, evidence-based research to support this goal in the care and treatment of individuals with diabetes. The inclusion of ACE science and trauma-informed care in this year's symposium marks a recognition of the physical impact of trauma and the corresponding negative health outcomes that can result. Christine will delve into the scientific evidence of these connections and explain how helping patients build resilience can interrupt these negative outcomes and improve their self-care and overall health.
Christine Cowart is dually certified as a trauma professional by Florida State University and the International Association of Trauma Professionals, and is and a member of the ACEs Connection's Speakers and Trainers Bureau. She has built a career in the human services field, with a focus on criminal justice and family services policy. Through this work, she developed an in-depth understanding of trauma, its possible effects, and what can be done to change the story.