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At United Way, we know that Education, Financial Stability, Health and Basic Needs are the building blocks for strong, healthy communities. But we also know that when a person experiences a traumatic event – such as abuse, family dysfunction or absence of a parent – it actually changes the brain.

Trauma Changes the Brain

The effects of trauma can be major. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), also known as childhood trauma, disrupt the development of the brain and other organ systems, and increase the risk for stress-related diseases and cognitive impairment.

Trauma causes the body’s stress response system to become over-sensitized, leaving the brain unable to assess danger properly and sending the body into “fight or flight” mode, regardless of the real threat level.

In fact, new research tells us that childhood trauma is a major contributing factor to the public health crisis and is a leading cause of poor social, economic and health outcomes. Examples of the fallout from trauma include:

  • Inability to thrive in early childhood
  • Absenteeism and failure in school
  • Missed work and lost wages
  • Poor physical and mental health outcomes
  • Increased social service and medical costs

That’s why United way is focusing on the issue and working to prevent, mitigate and heal trauma in our region by:

  • Leading a regional movement through local coalitions and partnerships
  • Convening cross-sector stakeholders to break down silos and create new networks
  • Developing a common language and best practices with national experts
  • Creating awareness through training
  • Supporting continued innovation in the field
  • Partnering with higher education and professional organizations
  • Building philanthropic and grant-making strategies
  • Evaluating our impact through university partnerships
  • Advocate for public policies and programs that prevent, mitigate and heal the impact of toxic stress childhood adversity and toxic stress

For more information on United Way’s work to build a trauma-informed region, contact Suzanne O’Connor at 215-665-2453 or