Meredith P. Gronski, Katherine E. Bogan, Jeanne Kloeckner, Duana Russell-Thomas, Steven D. Taff, Kimberly A. Walker, Christine Berg; Childhood Toxic Stress: A Community Role in Health Promotion for Occupational Therapists. Am J Occup Ther 2013;67(6):e148–e153. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2013.008755
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© 2019 American Occupational Therapy Association
People who experience the toxic stress of recurrent traumatic events in childhood have a higher risk for mental and physical health problems throughout life. Occupational therapy practitioners have a remarkable opportunity to be involved in addressing this significant public health problem. As health care practitioners already situated in the community, we have a responsibility to lead and assist in establishing and implementing occupation-based programs and to nurture the links between the child welfare system and existing intervention systems. In this article, we review the current research on toxic stress and recommendations made by other health care disciplines and offer strategies for occupational therapy practitioners to begin a dialogue on this critical, emerging issue.
Improve access to basic health care for pregnant women and children
Provide intensive family support to at-risk families through evidence-based home visiting programs
Increase at-risk children’s access to very high-quality early education centers
Address early education centers that fail to meet minimal health and safety standards.
Early experiences with significant stress can undermine the development of adaptive capacities and coping skills.
The roots of stressful lifestyles, maladaptive coping patterns, and weak social networks are often reflected in behavioral and physiological responses to significant adversity.
The prevention of long-term, adverse consequences is best achieved by the protection of stable, responsive relationships that help children develop a sense of safety, thereby facilitating the restoration of their stress response systems to baseline (NSCDC, 2012).
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