Show Your Support!
A World Health Organization (WHO) study found that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) cost the United States $748 billion annually. While this number is staggering, we know that the actual cost is much higher. Through an official hearing, Congress will better understand the cost of ACEs and what works to prevent and address them.
Take a moment to sign on and show your support for a congressional hearing! The National Trauma Campaign will be sending this letter to Congressional leaders from key committees to encourage them to hold this hearing. You can read the full text of the letter at the bottom of this page.
We the undersigned trauma-informed, resilience-focused, and wellness-centered coalitions, organizations, and individuals respectfully request that you urge the Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to hold a hearing to examine the 2019 World Health Organization study (“Study”) finding that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) cost the United States more than $748 billion a year in lost productivity. This constitutes over 3% of the U.S. GDP. The Study also concluded that just a 10% reduction in the impact of ACEs, through a combination of prevention and resilience programs, an achievable goal, would reduce that cost by more than $110 billion a year. In the process, such a reduction would also decrease substance abuse, suicides, domestic violence, incarceration, diabetes, obesity, poor work and school performance, heart attacks and other health and social problems. Decades of research have established that all these issues are rooted in ACEs and other forms of toxic stress. (Attached to this letter is a summary of the Study.)
As organizations and individuals working in the field, we are also very much aware that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly increased exposure to trauma, particularly within families already vulnerable due to financial instability and health disparities. In effect, the pandemic has exacerbated conditions shown to increase risk for problems such as opioid use, delinquency and criminal activity (including homicides), child maltreatment, depression, and suicides, all of which further amplify the costs estimated by the WHO Study.
Important to note is that the Study did not estimate the direct costs of problems caused by ACEs for governments, social systems, and individuals, particularly in the health care arena. The Study observed that, “Rebalancing expenditure towards ensuring safe and nurturing childhoods would be economically beneficial and relieve pressures on health-care systems,” but provided no dollar figure. However, a California study found that the health care costs attributable to the problems caused by ACEs exceeded $10 billion a year in California alone. The government also directly pays the price of ACEs through the money it is required to budget for other costs created by ACEs, such as incarceration.
In conclusion, the Study stated, “Our data from studies across Europe and North America show the huge personal and economic burden associated with children experiencing several ACEs. These burdens can be avoided if governments prioritize investment in children and fund evidence-based prevention strategies” (526). This is a clarion call to policymakers to centrally consider the science regarding trauma’s impacts on children, families, and communities to significantly reduce Federal expenditures, save lives, and increase the productivity of our workforce.
To explore the important insights provided by the Study, which cut across so many different areas under the jurisdiction of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, we request that the Committee hold a hearing to examine the findings of the WHO Study. In addition to consideration of this Study, we request that the hearing also consider the pandemic’s impacts that have further increased exposure to trauma for so many of our citizens. Such a hearing will highlight the enormous costs ACEs are imposing on the United States and the cost effectiveness of concrete policy strategies that move beyond general investments in prevention and resilience building. The Committee will also have an opportunity to hear about the growing number of programs in the State that have successfully reduced the causes and effects of ACEs through prevention and resilience programs. Witnesses could include representatives of WHO, representatives of the CDC, SAMHSA, the California Surgeon General, and such national and state organizations as the National Prevention Science Coalition, Prevent Child Abuse, Trust for America’s Health, Results for America, the Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice (CTIPP), NCTSN, and many other organizations that have signed onto this request.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.