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American Academy of Pediatrics Convenes Thought Leaders for Symposium on Reducing Toxic Stress and Fostering Resilience in Children

6/12/2014 Experts will discuss the federal response to early childhood adversity and its lifelong impacts

Washington, DC—Science shows that adversity experienced in childhood has long-lasting physical and emotional effects—this "toxic stress" will only continue to grow if the nation's leaders do not intervene now to reduce children's exposure and the cascade of chronic health problems it causes.

On June 17, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) will host a daylong Symposium on Child Health, Resilience & Toxic Stress in Washington, DC. During the meeting, federal government officials, national thought leaders and medical professionals will discuss the emerging science of toxic stress and how federal policies and programs can protect against childhood adversity.

"The federal government plays a critical role in reducing children's exposure to toxic stress and building their resilience," said AAP President James M. Perrin, MD, FAAP. "I can think of no better place to convene the Academy's Symposium on Child Health, Resilience and Toxic Stress than in the nation's capital. Pediatricians look forward to learning more about the exciting work our partners have already undertaken and continue to do across the country; together, we can help children and families thrive."

Toxic stress can occur when a child experiences chronic, unmitigated adversity without access to stable, supportive relationships with caring adults. These adverse childhood experiences can include physical and emotional abuse, neglect, exposure to violence, food insecurity and economic hardship, among others. As outlined in the AAP's 2011 policy statement, toxic stress can affect a child's brain development and lead to the presence of many adult diseases, including heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and liver disease.

During the symposium, the AAP will announce the formation of the Center on Healthy, Resilient Children. The new Center, which will officially launch in the near future, will be a national effort coordinated by the AAP and strategic partners to support healthy brain development and prevent toxic stress. In addition to prevention efforts to keep children healthy, the Center will focus on ways to help pediatricians and others identify children who have experienced adversity and toxic stress and ensure they have access to appropriate interventions and supports.

"Pediatricians envision a world in which every child has every opportunity to become a healthy, successful adult," Dr. Perrin said. "Achieving this will require strong, sustained investments in the health of the whole child, brain and body. It will require building upon our existing work and forging new partnerships across sectors and fields of expertise. Most importantly, it will require the renewed commitment of all of us who are champions for children to come together and advance a federal policy agenda focused on reducing toxic stress and fostering resilience in children, their families and communities."

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 62,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit

Additional details on the symposium:

The invitation-only symposium begins at 9 a.m. and concludes at 4:30 p.m. on June 17 at the Mayflower Hotel. A full agenda and additional information on the meeting is available at

The event will also be live webcast; members of the media and general public can register here to view the event online. It will also be archived.

Speakers include:

  • Jack Shonkoff, MD, FAAP, Director of the Harvard Center on the Developing Child
  • Perri Klass, MD, FAAP, Professor of Journalism and Pediatrics, New York University and National Medical Director, Reach Out and Read
  • Mark Greenberg, JD, Acting Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children & Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and
  • Esta Soler, President and Founder, Futures Without Violence.