Wednesday, September 16, 2015

We Can't Have Our Cake and Eat It Too

Last night I attended a fascinating event put on by a few wonderful organizations here in Dallas, led by United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, around "The Raising of America - Early Childhood and the Future of Our Nation". It included a screening of excerpts of this thought provoking series, and a panel discussion of experts.

Susan Hoff, Chief Strategy Officer of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas
(Photo Courtesy of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas)
One of the concepts they discussed is the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) score. In short, more adverse childhood experiences, the higher the score. Research shows that the higher the score, the more likely it is that the individual will suffer adverse long term effects across all areas of life. This has to do mainly with the influence of stressors such as poverty, food insecurity, housing instability on the development of the brain of the child. It is no surprise that the President of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Robert Block, has stated, "Adverse childhood experiences are the single greatest unaddressed public health threat facing our nation today."

Another important idea discussed is that social and economic stressors influence children on the epigenetic or genetic expression level. This happens already in utero, and once again has the potential to effect children for years to come. Give children a positive environment to grow up in - get good epigenetic results. Give children a negative environment to grow up in - get bad epigenetic results.

We, in America, contend that everyone should be treated equally. We like to believe that we can and should expect everyone to thrive, and that if one does not, it is their fault. So, it does not matter where you grow up. You should be able pull yourself up by your bootstraps.

It should not matter that we, as a country, have stopped investing in the working poor. It should not matter that we have put in place policies that have eroded the middle class. It should not matter that we have condemned 25% of American children to grow up in poverty, lacking the necessities they need to thrive.

Right, because that makes sense... We should definitely be able to have our cake, not invest in what we need to, and eat it too, expect the results that would come about had we invested in what we needed too. Right?

Well, no, wrong. This does not make sense, and never really made sense. Now, science shows how little sense this actually makes. The question, as Susan Hoff, United Way Chief Strategy Officer, posed it last night, is: Do we have the will to do what we KNOW we need to do? Or will we continue, as we talked about in the last blog post, to waste the vast human potential that we have in this great city, and across our nation?

Only time will tell.

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