UCLA and UCSF awarded $41.5 million to address the impact of childhood adversity and toxic stress on health

Funding provided by the California Department of Health Care Services, in partnership with the Office of the California Surgeon General

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Kelli Stauning
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Two of the University of California’s nationally ranked medical centers, UCLA and UCSF, have partnered with the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) and Office of the California Surgeon General (CA-OSG) to lead a multi-campus initiative addressing the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and other causes of toxic stress on health.

Launched in October, the UCLA/UCSF ACEs Aware Family Resilience Network (UCAAN) brings its expertise and resources to the state’s ACEs Aware initiative, which trains clinicians on how to screen children and adults for ACEs to treat the toxic stress response.

“We now have the opportunity to fully realize the power of addressing ACEs and toxic stress,” said Shannon Thyne, MD, Co-Principal Investigator, UCAAN, and Professor of Pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “Embedding ACEs Aware into the UC system enables us to tap into a wealth of scientists, clinicians, and educators to create the structure and capacity needed to sustain, grow, and ultimately realize the bold commitment of California’s Surgeon General to reduce toxic stress among our state’s children and families by half in one generation.”

Led and administered through the Department of Pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the UCSF Center to Advance Trauma-Informed Health Care (CTHC), UCAAN leverages the rich and diverse expertise and resources of both UCs across disciplines to develop, promote, and sustain evidence-based methods to screen, treat, and heal from the impacts of childhood adversity.

Together with a substantial network of community partners and a team that includes frontline primary care providers in the state’s Medi-Cal network delivery system, UCAAN will expand ACE screening throughout the state, and will develop evidence-based, culturally competent responses to prevent and manage the consequences of toxic stress.

“By giving providers the tools and resources they need to screen for ACEs and treat toxic stress with evidence-based interventions, ACEs Aware has served as an integral part of California’s response to the COVID-19 public health emergency,” said California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris. “Our new partnership with UCAAN will further strengthen the scientific foundation to support routine ACE screening and trauma-informed clinical care.”

“As a frontline primary care physician, I am able to better connect with my patients and develop more effective treatment plans by understanding their past traumatic experiences, as well as their sources of strength and resilience,” said Edward Machtinger, MD, Co-Principal Investigator, UCAAN, UCSF Professor of Medicine, and Director of UCSF CTHC. “UCAAN has the opportunity to develop and disseminate the evidence, practice, and policies to address trauma, promote resilience, and achieve better health outcomes and health equity for the many physical and mental health conditions driven by early childhood trauma and other causes of toxic stress.”

Research shows that ACEs, such as abuse, neglect, or having a parent who is incarcerated or struggling with addiction or mental illness, can stimulate the toxic stress response and significantly increase the risk for chronic health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, depression, and asthma.

It’s critical that we continue to integrate ACEs screening and treatment for toxic stress into clinical practices throughout the state,” said Dr. Thyne. “UCAAN will enable us to build on the momentum we’ve gained over the last two years, as we worked with the state to integrate ACEs screening and treatment for toxic stress into busy clinical practices.”