Childhood Trauma Affects Our Entire Community

In advance of Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’ visit to The City Club of Cleveland on Thursday, March 21, PEP CEO Habeebah R. Grimes penned an op-ed for Crain’s Cleveland Business about why we need to pay attention to the impact childhood trauma is having on our community. Dr. Harris is one of the foremost experts on childhood trauma and its impact on long-term health. 

Here is an excerpt, but please visit Crain’s for the full piece.


We’ve long recognized that extreme stress can lead to mental health problems. We rightfully hold veterans in our hearts and sympathize with the life-altering effects of war. We are arguably open to the idea that intense stress in daily life increases our risks for heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure and the like.

We’ve acknowledged that modern-day stress is literally making us sick, but we’ve mostly accepted this as par for the course. We’re adults. We can take it, right?

We now know the human body cannot take it. In fact, when stress is unrelenting, it affects our brains and bodies. That is especially the case for children.

Extreme poverty, neighborhood violence, physical and sexual abuse, witnessing violence. These are just a few of the traumatic circumstances and events that are all too familiar for many children in Greater Cleveland.

The earlier in life trauma occurs, the more persistent it is as a child grows up — the more profound the impact. Childhood trauma disturbs brain development so dramatically, it undercuts the foundations necessary for young people to learn and grow. For children in Cleveland, this means they are at tremendous risk for poor health, education and economic outcomes, including early death.

CLICK HERE to read the full piece