Toxic stress is more than “I had a bad day at work today.” It’s persistent stress that comes from experiencing or witnessing domestic violence, living in a violent area or even living with someone who has serious mental health issues. And the reason this type of stress is toxic is that it doesn’t just affect the child emotionally, it also affects them physiologically. Research shows that this type of stress actually impacts the way the brain develops.

A child who grows up in that sort of environment, without the right kind of support goes into school with a brain that is already hard wired in a different way than counterparts coming from more stable environments. Latino USA Senior Producer Daisy Rosario first started looking into toxic stress after reporting this story on the high infant mortality rates in Rochester, New York. In another story, she explained the science behind it. With some experts calling this the next great public health concern, Daisy now takes us to the Bronx to see how treating toxic stress as a public health issue is changing the way the Montefiore health system, which serves some of the poorest congressional districts in the country, approaches pediatric care.

This is part of larger trend towards this type of care. There are many different programs trying to do similar things around the country right now. At Montefiore, the program follows the Healthy Steps model. Healthy Steps will go to places that are interested in implementing this system and provide training and allow the location to use the name “Healthy Steps.”

Daisy Rosario’s reporting on toxic stress was undertaken as a National Health Journalism Fellow at the Center for Health Journalism at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism.

Featured image: (Marcus Quigmire/Wikimedia Commons)

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