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Oprah 246Oprah Winfrey and Dr Nadine Burke Harris discuss Adverse Childhood Experiences

From Number Story

Oprah Winfrey and Dr Nadine Burke Harris, Surgeon General of California discuss Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), connecting over their decades of helping people impacted by childhood adversity.

ACEs are a public health crisis that preceded and has been exacerbated by the pandemic. ACEs and the impact of childhood trauma on lifelong health and well-being is something that we both care deeply about.

Oprah: My book, 'What Happened To You?', written with Dr Bruce Perry came about because of the realization of 'what happened to you' literally colours and shapes your entire worldview. Understanding what happened to you and also what happened to other people who are in your family, in your environment, in your workspace, changes the game. It just changes the way you operate and that question has literally changed the way we operate our school in South Africa.

Girls coming to my school in South Africa were taking the ACE test and, on average, they were scoring a six. They were coming from really traumatic backgrounds at a time when AIDS was infecting 1 out of 4 people and, every week, we had to tell another child, you've lost a parent. But what I wasn't really aware of was the long-term impact.

Nadine: Yes, I have been shouting about ACEs and their long-term impact for a long time and I kind of relaxed a little bit because I was like if Oprah's talking about it maybe I can retire...

Oprah: It means we need to combine forces and shout even louder because I think it's life-changing. The question that people should be asking when they're dealing with kids who are misbehaving, suspended and labelled is not, 'What's wrong with this child?' but 'What's happened to this child?'. It's a question that suddenly hit me despite talking about approaches for 4 years on the show.

Nadine: It's a systemic issue. Society looks at the individual and says you've got to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. I realized that this is a public health crisis and that means that we have to take a public health approach. One of the pieces that is so fundamental to a public health approach is raising awareness and that is what your book does and why we have created a national public education campaign called

It's really to help people begin to understand what is the story of your number, what does it mean in terms of your health and your well-being and most importantly recognizing that the number of ACEs that you've experienced doesn't define you. You get to say how your story turns out. It does leave an imprint and you need to be aware of what that imprint is.

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From Number Story, 08/12/2021

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