Natalie Audage, new PACEs family and community resources lead, says her middle and high school education in dictatorships – Aleppo, Syria and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – where her parents were teachers on the international circuit, made her realize that human rights were not universal.
That’s why a light bulb went off in her senior year at Princeton University, when the chemistry major took a class on human rights. She realized she could combine her love of science with her desire to help the world.
Following graduation, Audage got a fellowship to work as an asylum network coordinator at Physicians for Human Rights, where she helped torture survivors get medical and psychological evaluations to support their asylum cases. After two years, she decided she wanted to learn how to prevent human violence rather than heal those affected by it, so she went back to school and earned in MPH in health education from Emory University Rollins School of Public Health.
“Health education seemed like a good fit for me because I could use science but not necessarily be immersed in science,” says Audage.
Even though her graduate thesis was about parental involvement and resilience, she didn’t learn about the science of adverse childhood experiences until 2003, while a research fellow at the CDC, where she worked on the prevention of child sexual abuse in youth-serving organizations. While at the CDC, she coauthored a report to help violence prevention practitioners learn about the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. At the time, she said “people weren’t sure what to do with ACEs in terms of practice.
“The field has come so far since then,” she says.
In her role at PACEs Connection, Audage is developing resources related to PACEs (positive childhood experiences) and resilience. At the moment, she is focusing on projects to mitigate the digital divide in California and also developing resources related to “stress busters,” part of an ACEs Aware program launched by California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris to train families, doctors, educators, and social health workers how to help themselves and children manage their stress response.
Stress busters include healthy nutrition, regular exercise, restful sleep, practicing mindfulness, building social connections, and getting mental health support.
While developing family resources at PACEs Connection, Audage’s work will also be informed by her experiences as a parent and her six years as the child abuse prevention coordinator for Yolo County Children’s Alliance. In moving to this new position with PACEs Connection, she is particularly “excited to be part of this transition to PACEs.”
She puts it succinctly: “This approach embraces positive experiences and acknowledges adverse ones, thus providing opportunities for prevention and healing while also offering hope.”