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California's first surgeon general: Screen every student for childhood trauma


Dr. Nadine Burke Harris has an ambitious dream: screen every student for childhood trauma before entering school.

"A school nurse would also get a note from a physician that says: 'Here is the care plan for this child's toxic stress. And this is how it shows up,'" said Burke Harris, who was appointed California's first surgeon general in January.


"It could be it shows up in tummy aches. Or it's impulse control and behavior, and we offer a care plan. Instead of reacting harshly and punitively, every educator is trained in recognizing these things. Instead of suspending and expelling or saying, 'What's wrong with you?' we say, 'What happened to you?'"

Burke Harris has dedicated her career to changing the way society responds to childhood trauma, which research has shown affects brain development and creates lifelong health problems.

"This involves public education, routine screening to enable early detection and early intervention, and cross-sector coordinated care," she said at a hearing on providing care in schools held by the House Committee on Education and Labor in September. "The opportunity ahead of us is about a true intersection of health care and education." Read More>>

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