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Call to action on adverse childhood experiences

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Every business on the island should understand the wider consequences of traumatic childhood events because of the huge financial impact, a data analyst said yesterday.

Tara Hines, of the Bermuda Health Council, explained that the country's healthcare spending included treatment of conditions, like chronic diseases, that were linked to challenging circumstances during younger years, which included abuse, bullying and witnessing a road crash.

She delivered the preliminary results of a survey carried out by the BHeC in partnership with Family Centre at the second day of the Adverse Childhood Experiences conference and said that industries were affected.

The council's national health accounts report showed that 11.5 per cent of GDP was attributed to healthcare costs in 2017, a total of almost $723 million and equivalent to more than $11,000 per person.

Ms Hines, a project associate in data analytics and outcomes research, pointed out that Bermuda did not have “the highest life expectancy, but we certainly spend a lot”.

She added: “The question is about the quality of the dollars that are going in to an experience that is lacking the social determinants understanding.”

Ms Hines told the conference: “Whether or not this is out of pocket, insurance coverage, financial assistance, government pieces, this is all getting paid for, we are constantly shelling out dollars to ignore the impact of adverse childhood experience.”

She said the issues were important to “every single industry” because companies pay for half of their employees' health insurance standard premium rates.

Productivity loss, healthcare, legal activities including the criminal justice system, child welfare and special education, also contribute to the lifetime costs, which Ms Hines explained could be anywhere from $124 billion to $598 billion over a lifetime “due to childhood maltreatment and adverse childhood experiences”.

She added: “I realise that these numbers probably start to run together but I don't know a more motivating way than to look at that and say, ‘maybe this is important'.”

Ms Hines explained that the survey questionnaire, which had more than 600 respondents, often asked if people had directly experienced the adverse experiences as well as whether they had seen or heard them.

She added that in the context of Bermuda “trauma was just as powerful ... if people were indirectly experiencing it as if it had occurred to them directly themselves”.

Ms Hines said almost 50 per cent of those asked said that at some time they experienced bullying.

She added: “For bullying it was more likely that anyone who identified as black had directly experienced it and anyone who identified as white had witnessed it, so I think that that is a very telling and important point.”

The questionnaire also considered racial pressures by asking how often the individual felt that race impacted their emotional or mental wellbeing and how often they felt they were treated unfairly as a result of their race, both as a child and today.

Ms Hines said: “These questions have never been a component of the adverse childhood experience research previously.

“This does provide some small avenue to be able to assess this in relation to chronic disease, in relation to people who report the inability to concentrate or to function or to leave their homes, the inability or the pessimism that we see when somebody indicates that they do not feel that their overall health is of good quality and yet have not listed a single diagnosed condition with that feeling,” Ms Hines explained.

“I think that those kind of details really speak volumes.”

She urged more men to take the survey, which is still available through Family Centre's website.

Ms Hines added that she also hoped the Government and its Department of Statistics will offer more backing and introduce the research on a national level.

Important issues: Tara Hines, of the Bermuda Health Council (Photograph supplied)
Findings from the survey carried out by the Bermuda Health Council in partnership with Family Centre (Graphic by Byron Muhammad)
Findings from the survey carried out by the Bermuda Health Council in partnership with Family Centre (Graphic by Byron Muhammad)

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Published June 15, 2019 at 9:00 am (Updated June 15, 2019 at 8:52 am)

Call to action on adverse childhood experiences

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