An invisible disease has been killing middle-aged white people throughout the southern San Joaquin Valley at higher rates than ever before. The disease can’t be detected by a blood test or remedied with a prescription. It’s been referred to as one of the country’s greatest unaddressed public health crises and a rising “epidemic of white death.” The disease is toxic stress, a result of childhood trauma and other environmental stressors like poverty, food insecurity and basic living needs not being met.
The report underscores data released by the California Department of Public Health in November showing that Kern County mothers have experienced more childhood trauma and hardship than mothers anywhere else in California, potentially setting their kids on a path of physical, mental and emotional health problems later in life.
Those hardships, often referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), might include basic needs not being met, family hunger, relocation or foster care placement, parents with drug or substance abuse issues, incarceration, legal troubles, divorce or separation.
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