Dr. Honda here! Are you enjoying the “cold,” cloudy weather? Our fall season is coming along! Hawaiʻi style. Lol.
As it’s already November, I can’t help but reflect on everything that’s happened this year. And 2020 has been a CRAZY year! I’ll save all the details of reflection close to the end of the year.
But today, in light of events that occurred this week and in preparation for Thanksgiving, I want to take a moment to address childhood hunger and adverse childhood events.
Why? As many of you are probably aware, last weekend, local musician Paula Fuga was volunteering her time to sing for the Thanks Fo’ Giving campaign hosted by the 98.5 radio station. At the beginning of her segment, she expressed her vulnerability and admitted that she experienced homelessness as a child. There were moments where she was so hungry she had to eat from a trash can.
Now, I’m not going to discuss what happened with the hosts afterward, as I’m sure most of you already know; but, I want to bring up the issue of child hunger and food insecurity. It’s a real thing. I was deeply saddened when I watched Paula share her story, and you could tell from her emotions throughout the segment, that it was something that still affects her so deeply. Even as an adult, those memories are still difficult for her to discuss. Huge mahalo to her for sharing her story and having the courage to speak up and address her mistreatment in real-time. AND not to mention she handled the situation with poise and grace. She’s an amazing role model!
As Pediatricians, we care about these issues. Food insecurity is real. Homelessness is real. We screen for these concerns at most of our visits. Some of you may have already noticed that these questions are asked on our pre-visit questionnaires. Thank you for filling these out prior to your appointments!
It’s also Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week!
How has food insecurity impacted Hawaii’s keiki?
Thank you to the Hawaii Children’s Action Network for providing the following statistics this week! I’d like to highlight the numbers they provided.
1 in 35 keiki in Hawaiʻi under age 6 are experiencing homelessness
42% of keiki who experience homelessness will drop out of school at least once
10% of Hawaiʻi adults living in households with kids sometimes or often did not have enough food to eat in the past week
Why else should we care?
Food insecurity and homelessness are stressful to the parent AND the child. When they occur over time, this circumstance could lead to prolonged economic strain which could lead to toxic stress. These stressful situations can impact your keiki’s health.
Have you ever heard of ACE’s? It’s okay if you haven’t. ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Events. An excellent study came out in 1998, which first discussed the impact of childhood stress on development.
What are examples of Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs)?
Emotional and physical abuse
Exposure to family members suffering from mental health illness
Family member in jail
Domestic violence or intimate partner violence (IPV)
Death of a family member
Economic hardship (You can definitely put homelessness and childhood hunger in this category)
These events can be very stressful to your child and eventually lead to toxic stress. Toxic stress is prolonged, repetitive stress without any protective factors like a supportive adult family member.
So all stress is bad?
No, not all stress is bad. Stress has been shown to help kids learn how to cope and learn how to deal with their emotions. It’s more of the repetitive toxic stress over time that could lead to unfortunate outcomes. What happens to the body when a child experiences toxic stress?
Research shows that toxic stress experienced by children carries into adulthood. Adult diseases such as obesity, cardiac disease, mental health illness, and substance abuse have all been linked to childhood adverse events. It could also impact the structural development of the brain over time, especially when toxic stress starts from infancy, which is such a critical time for brain growth and development.
What can I do to help?
I’m glad you asked! First and foremost, if you feel like an ACE has occurred in your family, please let us know. We are always happy to help and make sure you have the resources you need to recover and heal.
To help your keiki, continue to provide a positive and supportive environment. Your keiki are also EXTREMELY OBSERVANT. They pick up on your emotions when you’re happy, mad, or sad. They know when you’re stressed. As best you can, model good behaviors to let them know how to cope with different situations. Teach them resilience, but also validate when they feel frustrated and help them bounce back. As always, continue to provide encouragement and a place for them to feel safe and secure.
And last but definitely not least, HAPPY THANKSGIVING! We are so thankful to have each and every one of you in our Keānuenue Pediatrics ʻOhana. Whether you’re a patient, family member, friend, or a friend of a friend, we’re thankful to have you in our lives.
I also want to express my gratitude to Dr. Waipa for being the absolute best. I’m so thankful that she started this clinic. The office is so amazing and all the patients love it! It speaks so much to her great work as a Pediatrician. I’m so appreciative that I get to work side by side with her. I’m also thankful for our lovely staff Randalyn, Char, and Rosie. They have such an amazing work ethic, are always willing to go above and beyond at the drop of a dime, and make the office so fun. From the bottom of my heart, mahalo nui loa.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! Please stay safe, continue to social distance, and enjoy the amazing food. :)Much Aloha,