Repeated Stress is Toxic for Children: Free Lecture Presents More Research

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23rd Annual Katherine White, M.D. Guest Lectureship Symposium on toxic stress

Dr. Katherine White helped establish an endowment to support a guest lectureship program. This year the topic examines pediatric toxic stress.

The future of any society depends on its ability to foster the healthy development of the next generation, but what few people know is that the health of children is being severely impacted everyday by “toxic stress.”

Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach is taking this issue very seriously as it will be hosting the 23rd Annual Katherine White, M.D. Guest Lectureship Symposium on Friday, March 15 to describe, and educate, people as to how consistent stress can be “toxic” in a child’s life and can lead to future health complications.

“Stress seems to be ever-present in today’s world,” says Dr. David Michalik, Associate Director of Academic Affairs, Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach. “While at times this can be transformed into a positive force and motivator, high levels can have deleterious effects, particularly in children. This year’s Katherine White Symposium explores the medical facets of toxic stress in our youth and how we as medical providers, teachers and parents can both identify and help alleviate the damage incurred by this under-recognized condition.”

Extensive research on the biology of stress now shows that healthy development can be derailed by excessive or prolonged activation of stress response systems in the body (especially the brain), with damaging effects on learning, behavior and health across the lifespan. There are three kinds of responses to stress: positive, tolerable and toxic.

Toxic stress response can occur when a child experiences strong, frequent, and/or prolonged adversity such as physical or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, caregiver substance abuse or mental illness, exposure to violence, and/or the accumulated burdens of family economic hardship without adequate adult support.

When toxic stress response occurs continually, or is triggered by multiple sources, it can have a cumulative toll on an individual’s physical and mental health for a lifetime. The more adverse experiences in childhood, the greater the likelihood of developmental delays and later health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, substance abuse and depression. Research also indicates that supportive, responsive relationships with caring adults as early in life as possible can prevent or reverse the damaging effects of toxic stress response.

The keynote lecturer for this symposium will be Pamela C. High, MS, M.D., who is the Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Division of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics (DBP) at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University. She directs both fellowship and residency training in DBP at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, R.I.

The lecture starts at 7 a.m. and is open to the public. Registration is complimentary, but space is limited. For questions, call the Center for Health Education at (562) 933-0100.


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