Harvard prof in New Yorker story on childhood trauma and health

Jack P. Shonkoff of Harvard’s  Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University gets a mention in this week’s New Yorker story “The Poverty Clinic.” The story profiles a San Franciso doctor who is trying to address the childhood  neglect, abuse and trauma that trigger health problems later in life.

Shonkoff is noted as a leader in this area, having edited the 2000 “From Neighborhoods to Neurons” study out of the National Academy of  Sciences, which “presents the evidence about “brain wiring” and how kids learn to speak, think, and regulate their behavior. It examines the effect of the climate-family, child care, community-within which the child grows.”

 Here’s a link to a panel held last year to follow up on the study. For more, the center is hosting an upcoming talk on the topic which is open to the public.

 Thomas Boyce, M.D. “A Biology of Misfortune: How Stratification, Sensitivity, and Stress Diminish Child Health and Development” April 12, 2011 4:00-6:00 p.m. , Kresge G2, Harvard School of Public Health,,677 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Mass.

This event free and open to all University students, faculty, and the general public.

ABSTRACT: Social class differences in early childhood adversity are among the most important and least understood determinants of human health and development. This lecture will propose the following three hypotheses: (1) maladaptive outcomes of social stratification in early childhood anticipate, parallel, and amplify the effects of inequality in adult societies; (2) these effects operate through central and peripheral neurobiologic and epigenomic circuits that are responsive to stress and adversity; and (3) extensive variation in stress responsivity reveals a subgroup of children with exaggerated sensitivity to both aversive and nurturing social conditions. The disproportionate prevalence of health and developmental problems among children with elevated sensitivity to context suggests a “biology of misfortune” that involves inter-related cycles of subordination, affliction, and adversity that have important implications for public health.


W. Thomas Boyce, M.D., is the Sunny Hill Health Centre/BC Leadership Chair in Child Development at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, and a professor in the College for Interdisciplinary Studies and Faculty of Medicine. He is also co-director of the Experience-Based Brain and Biological Development Program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and a member of the American Pediatric Society. A social epidemiologist and developmental-behavioral pediatrician, his research addresses the interplay among neurobiological, genetic, and psychosocial processes that leads to socioeconomically partitioned differences in childhood morbidities. He is also a member of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. His research has demonstrated how psychological stress and neurobiological reactivity to aversive social contexts operate conjointly to increase risks of physical and mental health disorders in childhood. His work seeks a new synthesis between biomedical and social epidemiologic understanding of human pathogenesis, with particular attention to its population health implications. Dr. Boyce earned his M.D. from the Baylor College of Medicine, completed his pediatrics residency at the University of California, San Francisco, and was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

        Finally, I’m not one of those Red Sox fans who fumes at the thought of the Yankees.  I’m from Jersey, so I’m related to a few Yankee fans. Which is good, because this week’s Health Wonk Review is loaded with good links but studded with pictures of players from the evil ex-empire. All we have to say is: Go Sox!



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