DAILY / MAY 20, 2019  
Psychiatric News Update

Kellogg CEO Urges Psychiatrists to Advocate for Trauma-Informed Care for Children

La June Montgomery Tabron
Children need champions for trauma-informed care, and communities need experts to connect the dots between health risks and children’s well-being, La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, told psychiatrists at the 63rd Convocation of Distinguished Fellows Monday evening.

As she delivered the William C. Menninger Memorial Lecture, Tabron described the work of the Kellogg Foundation on issues related to children’s health, welfare, and racial equity, and she exhorted psychiatrists to be leaders in their communities, regionally and nationally, and to advocate for children’s health.

Tabron emphasized three crucial components of the Kellogg Foundation’s mission: engagement with communities, racial equity, and leadership by individuals willing to champion a cause.

She said communities have wisdom and power, and when they are engaged, that wisdom can drive the changes that matter. “The second crucial element of everything we do is racial equity,” she continued. “In our view racial equity is an aspirational pursuit insisting that all people will have equal opportunity to experience well-being in a just society.”

Crucial to racial equity is system transformation and racial healing. “‘Healing’ is one of those words that people think of as being soft,” Tabron said. “But as psychiatrists, you understand it is one of the most difficult tasks. Racial healing is a process that restores individuals and communities to wholeness and transforms societal structures by connecting people to one another to share common experiences and to thereby gain empathy.”

Tabron described a framework, developed by Will Keith Kellogg himself, for drawing leaders together to tackle community challenges. “He called it cooperative planning, intelligent study, and group action,” she said. In Kellogg’s view, leaders from every sector needed to be deep in the process of addressing community challenges—especially when it came to health.

Tabron underscored the importance of social determinants of health—something that has been a priority of APA President Altha Stewart, M.D. “The social determinants of health gave health leaders a way to frame the question: ‘What do we accomplish if we treat illness and send people back to the same conditions that created the illness in the first place?’”

Through the lens of social determinants of health, the provision of medical care is only one facet of what shapes a child’s well-being. The neighborhood, education, economic conditions, and other characteristics of the environment all influence health outcomes.

In 2006 the Kellogg Foundation initiated Place Matters, a collaboration with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Teams in 24 districts across 10 states “drilled down” in their communities to better understand social determinants that shaped health and well-being.

“What we have learned—and continue to learn—about how these influences affect a child’s individual life experiences is reorienting our approaches to changing children’s lives,” Tabron said. “You would recognize them as adverse childhood experiences.”

The lessons from Place Matters have helped inform Kellogg’s trauma-based care programs for children in New Orleans affected by Hurricane Katrina and children in Flint, Mich., affected by the lead water crisis.

Tabron cited the work of psychiatrist Denise Shervington, M.D., M.P.H., in helping to steer the trauma-informed programs of the Kellogg Foundation in New Orleans. “What she told us is that if you are not going to deal with the trauma that our children experienced, nothing you do will work in this community,” Tabron said. “This actually shifted our work in this community. It wasn’t just the trauma of Katrina, but multiple childhood issues that date well before Katrina—the stresses of racism and poverty.”

She closed her remarks with a plea to psychiatrists to take on leadership roles in their communities. “Your leadership can change the lives of children,” she said. “Partner with others and take on the issues that you know promote health, happiness, and well-being of children. We know that trauma-informed care works, and if you in your medical profession validate it, we will have momentum in this space that will ensure that every child has an opportunity to thrive.”

(Image: David Hathcox)


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