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Improving Children’s Health and Wellness through Parent and Pediatrician Awareness about Childhood Adversity and Long-Term Health Outcomes

CYW will empower parents and doctors to better support children by translating scientific research on childhood adversity into useful tools.

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Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

We have continued to evolve our concept since our initial submission in December. In late January, our Stress Health team convened in San Francisco with our creative and media consultants to talk through the Stress Health initiative progress to date and conduct brainstorming sessions to continue to source ideas around the evolution of the initiative throughout 2018 and beyond. Our teams discussed the effectiveness of our current Stress Health messaging and ways to continue iterating our explanation of ACEs to ensure that it is landing as an empowering message rather than one that would elicit fear and paralysis. Our NPPC team also joined this brainstorming session to think about opportunities to integrate Stress Health into the toolkit of resources for doctors to provide to parents. Our team also had the pleasure of working with our mentor, Whitney, who provided helpful insight into the user experience of the Stress Health website. Our mentor had never heard of ACEs before, so she used the Stress Health website to take an ACEs screening test and assess her own experiences. It was incredibly useful to have her perspective and better understand the impact of the site from someone understanding their own ACEs for the first time. Since our initial submission, the NPPC has expanded its offerings to include a gated member website providing a variety of resources to support ACEs screening implementation in pediatric practice. The website, which launched in January 2018, offers a variety of published research on ACEs, various screening tools, and an operational catalog of useful documents on specific considerations around screening protocols. We have a seen a positive response since the launch and will continue iterating on the content provided through the website based on member feedback.

Name or Organization

Center for Youth Wellness


San Francisco, California, with further expansion across the United States

What is your stage of development?

  • Advanced Innovator with 3 to 10+ years of experience in ECD


  • Non-profit

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Piloting: I have started to implement my solution as a whole with a first set of real users.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

Adverse childhood experiences affect 34.8 million children across socioeconomic lines in the US, and research shows that parents and caregivers can be the most powerful force in preventing or even reversing the impact of toxic stress in their children. CYW seeks to ensure that parents and caregivers, along with pediatric clinicians, can identify the symptoms associated with toxic stress and have access to the resources necessary to mitigate the resulting impact on children and families.

Select an Innovation Target

  • System design: Solutions that target changing larger systems.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

CYW is working to change the ways in which our society recognizes, treats, and responds to children who have experienced adversity across the US by creating public will and demand for ACEs screening. We aim to accomplish this by educating and providing resources to two target audiences inherently working to ensure the good health of young children: pediatric clinicians and parents/caregivers. Based on research and the clinical expertise we’ve developed over the past five years, we have determined that early detection of ACEs through screening in pediatric practice is foundational for identifying risk for toxic stress and enabling intervention to improve children’s health. We also know that healthy, caring relationships can help mitigate the effects of ACEs on children’s brains and bodies. Our innovation intends to utilize a public awareness initiative to build an understanding of the potential harmful, long-term effects of ACEs among parents and caregivers, along with building a National Pediatric Practice Community on ACEs (NPPC) to transform the way the medical community addresses childhood adversity in their practices.

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

ACEs can lead to imbalances in hormonal and immune systems, cause learning difficulties, and could ultimately result in developing chronic disease. CYW understands that childhood adversity is a complicated, systemic problem, and one that cannot be easily solved. However, we recognize ACEs as the root cause of a child’s ability to thrive and believe that embedding an understanding of toxic stress into organizations and individuals could enable children to be become healthy and resilient adults.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

The proposed project will leverage CYW's expertise, on-­the-­ground practice, and evidence-­based research to advance clinical practice and national awareness through: (1) educating pediatric practitioners and inspiring screening for ACEs and toxic stress and (2) activating parents and caregivers to understand the urgency of toxic stress and demand access to interventions. We believe that we can accomplish our vision of ACEs screening becoming a routine part of pediatric primary care by 2028 by creating a systems-change in the way the society responds to ACEs and toxic stress. We are proposing the following strategies and activities: Stress Health National Public Education Initiative Stress Health is a multi­-phased awareness and education initiative spanning five years that is designed to build parents' awareness of the connection of ACEs to health, provide them tools to be strong buffers for their children, and move them to be advocates for ACEs screening with pediatricians and, in the long­-term, with policymakers. The first phase of the initiative will be an online campaign primarily driven through social media, promoting a 15-second video about toxic stress that directs viewers to our Stress Health online parent portal to learn more ( Parents today use social media not only to access useful information, but also as a key parenting tool and as a way to crowdsource information from other parents, and 72% of adult Internet users say they have searched online for information about a range of health issues. Because of this, we feel confident in our ability to be effective in driving our audience to a digital hub for education and action. CYW recognizes social media as a highly efficient and effective dissemination channel, and will develop tools designed to educate and empower parents and caregivers and to turn knowledge about ACEs and their impacts on health into action. Built into the campaign will be ongoing public opinion surveys to gauge increased knowledge and changed behavior. CYW understands that public health messages are most effective when there is a direct community connection to the issue, therefore the second phase of the campaign will be focused around developing intentional community partnerships with child-serving organizations such as nonprofits, school districts, and public health departments. We intend to launch a pilot program in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood, where the CYW clinic is located, and use a replication model strategy to develop a community campaign guide to support expansion into other regions. We are interested in aligning with the NPPC to ideally identify key communities within which we would develop partnerships with medical practices along with partnerships with community organizations to ensure ACEs education and dissemination of resources across sectors. We would conduct research to better understand the community’s needs and work already being conducted around ACEs, knowing that we can provide the most value by offering resources, expertise, and key insights into parent/caregiver needs. National Pediatric Practice Community on Adverse Childhood Experiences (NPPC) The science on ACEs and toxic stress is advancing rapidly, providing the field with greater clarity on the physiological mechanisms that explain the relationships between adversity and health outcomes, and how adversity may interact with current standards of medical care. Research seeking to validate ACEs screening instruments, identification of key biomarkers, and development of evidence-based interventions are ongoing. These advances are producing increased interest and demand for information about how to integrate an ACEs, toxic stress, and trauma-informed framework into pediatric medical care, and how to effectively integrate screening and its results into patient health care management. Integrating ACEs screening into medical practice requires practice transformation. This transformation may include the need for training, new protocols and policies, enhancing internal and external partnerships for patient intervention, changing supervision practices, adopting electronic health records, etc. Understanding these challenges, CYW launched the National Pediatric Practice Community on ACEs (NPPC) in 2017. CYW will provide coaching, content and protocols on the science of ACEs, screening practices, and effective communications with parents on the issue. The NPPC will gain and share insights on pediatricians and their knowledge acquisition journey and identify successes, challenges and barriers to adopting ACEs screening in various pediatric clinical settings, and will identify and test communication, training materials, and dissemination channels, and surface ideas from practice that may need to be tested through research.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

The beneficiaries of our idea are the 34.8 million children across the US impacted by ACEs, along with their parents, caregivers, and families. We know from research conducted with parents and pediatricians that there is an understanding-­action gap in the field where ACEs and toxic stress knowledge is not being made relevant and accessible to audiences who are acting upon children's health on a daily basis. Our idea translates ACEs knowledge into relevant, compelling, and actionable messages for parents, caregivers, and pediatric clinicians, and creates learning and dissemination platforms to move our beneficiaries from understanding to action. CYW has been interacting with children and families exposed to ACEs since 2012, when Dr. Nadine Burke Harris founded the organization in San Francisco after realizing that children sent to her for evaluation of ADHD had been misdiagnosed, and were instead showing symptoms of exposure to highly traumatic environments. Today, CYW has served over 1,000 children through its integrated care model in partnership with the Bayview Child Health Center. CYW completed qualitative and quantitative consumer insights research with parents, caregivers, and pediatricians in early 2017 on the issue of ACEs and toxic stress. For the first time, it brings parents/caregivers insights into the formula of how we better communicate about the poor health outcomes associated with ACEs, by providing specific and appropriate tools to impact pediatric practice.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

CYW's vision is that ACE screening becomes a routine part of pediatric primary care by 2028. We feel that the next five years will be a critical time for converting societal momentum into enduring practice. Over the next five years, we believe that we can accomplish the following: 1. Triple the number of pediatricians routinely screening for ACEs (Baseline: 2,560 (4% of pediatricians currently practicing in the U.S.); target in 5 years: 7,500 pediatricians). With a conservative estimate of 300 children screened per pediatrician, it would result in 2.25M children screened annually. 2. Reach 38.9 million adults annually through the Stress Health campaign (estimated 155.8M total impressions per year, assuming 4x maximum exposure = 38.9M total unique impressions with projected investment and planned platforms). 3. Estimated 5% engagement potential of parents (1.95M annually) to take action, visit the Stress Health online parent portal, access education tools and information (based on industry standard rates). This level of impact would ensure that additional children, families, and their doctors are recognizing ACEs as a significant factor in children’s health and are conducting early screening and providing necessary interventions to mitigate their long-term effects. On a larger scale, increased public awareness could help drive national policy, ensuring that all child-serving programs are operating with a trauma-informed lens.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

A study conducted in 2016 shared the percentage of Facebook users by annual household income. The highest percentage of usage, 84%, occurred in households making less than $30,000 a year, indicating that the Stress Health campaign could influence households with parents and caregivers living below the poverty line, driving them to seek support for their children. The NPPC is also seeking to partner with diverse healthcare delivery models, including federally qualified health centers, which serve patients on Medicaid. CYW recognizes that living in vulnerable communities places additional stressors on parents and families, which can lead to increased ACEs. For the community partnerships phase of the Stress Health campaign, we would be intentional about the child and family-serving organizations we partner with and research community trends, such as prevalence of opioid abuse and homelessness so we can serve those with the highest need.

Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (5000 characters)

The majority of the research and momentum around childhood adversity and ACEs is entrenched in medical and public health communities. While much research has been done about the effects of ACEs and potential interventions to offset their long-term effects, the pertinent information is not often being translated for the general public and incorporated into the frameworks and curriculum across child-serving sectors. The NPPC and Stress Health initiatives are innovative concepts because they strive to translate the crucial research of ACEs and toxic stress in order educate and promote action from those playing a significant role in the lives and wellbeing of children--parents, caregivers, and pediatricians. While campaigns geared towards parents have existed previously, they have been focused on issues directly tied to ACEs without naming adversity directly. For instance, previous campaigns have highlighted the effects of witnessing violence in the home on children’s brain and focused on the important roles parents/caregivers can play in children’s development. By framing ACEs as the root of the issue, encompassing circumstances spanning from abuse and neglect to household dysfunction, we feel we will make a greater impact and resonate more deeply with our audiences. Our model for the Stress Health initiative is the Truth Initiative anti-smoking campaign, a highly effective movement which is grounded in data around the health outcomes of smoking and its harmful side effects. With the Truth campaign in mind, we intend to make the issue of childhood adversity digestible and actionable for parents and caregivers while providing solutions and encouraging action. We believe that striking the balance of elevating the urgency around ACEs and acknowledging the tangible ways for individuals to mitigate the long-term effects on health will be a powerful and innovative way to frame the issue. According the American Academy of Pediatrics, only 4% of pediatricians in the US are currently screening for ACEs. However, there is exciting work taking place at the state level (in states such as Tennessee and Michigan, for example), which is working to build momentum around ACEs in child-serving sectors and drive forward trauma-informed policy. There is still a significant lack of awareness around ACEs in the medical community, and the progressive work that is taking place is siloed from the broader medical community. We view the NPPC as a way to bring together existing ACEs screeners, those who have never heard of the issue, and everyone in between to create a shared learning environment and empower providers to make the case for ACEs screening in their practices. With our partnerships with pilot sites, we are also transforming pediatric practice by supporting with the direct integration of an ACEs screening protocol and intervention support. We see the NPPC as a first-of-its-kind, innovative model for advancing ACEs screening in medical practice.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

Early estimations of scale lead us to believe that we could reach nearly 39 million adults across the US through the Stress Health campaign in five years, with nearly two million being motivated to take action (e.g. visit the Stress Health online parent portal). We also anticipate community partnerships to be a key scaling opportunity. For example, CYW has secured a partnership for the NPPC with Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) in New York, a nonprofit providing comprehensive services to children and families through schools, health centers, and community organizations. With this partnership, CYW has the opportunity to support one school-based health center within HCZ to integrate ACEs screening, with the potential of expanding to scale the NPPC work along with the Stress Health campaign with other HCZ partners as well. The ideal would be to approach other community partnerships in a similar fashion where we tap into a network of organizations for efficient and effective scaling. While our research shows a need for resources on ACEs and training for medical providers, potential barriers to scaling include limited feasibility on the provider side or limited resources on the CYW side to incorporate our tools and expertise into potential partners’ existing work. In order to ensure we are prepared to scale the Stress Health campaign and NPPC financially and operationally, CYW has recently completed a five-year strategic plan in partnership with the Bridgespan Group.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

Over the last five years, CYW has demonstrated a solid track record across its initiatives and programs. Our Movement Building team, the group responsible for developing and executing the Stress Health and NPPC initiatives, has been central to bringing attention to the issue of ACEs and toxic stress through educating pediatric practitioners, inspiring screening for ACEs, and activating parents and caregivers to understand the urgency of ACEs and toxic stress. Our education and communications campaigns to date, including a #ChildrenCanThrive campaign, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris' TEDMED Talk, social media, and in-­person speaking engagements across the nation, have enabled us to reach more than 3M people and bring attention to ACEs and toxic stress. Our team has enlisted the support of three agencies to support the development of our digital media campaign efforts: RS + Crew to develop the campaign creative; Mainframe Interactive to develop and execute media strategy; and KNI to build the Stress Health website which serves as the central content hub for the campaign. The campaign creative and website ( have been built and we are currently conducting message testing with a targeted audience on Facebook. We are planning to launch the campaign in early 2018 and need to conduct additional planning prior to launching the community partnerships phase of the campaign. In late 2016, CYW partnered with the Center for Care Innovations to develop a project scoping plan and opportunity roadmap. The scoping plan identified CYW’s current state, resources, offerings and capabilities. As part of the scoping process, CCI prepared and led a half-day work session with CYW to shape the approach for the roadmap and discuss the tools, resources and goals for the project. Based on these learnings and synthesis, CCI developed the “Opportunity Roadmap” with options for building a network and turning the project’s resources and tools into products. This roadmap set the framework for the NPPC as it conducted its initial launch in mid-2017 and began member enrollment and relationship building towards securing pilot site partnerships. As of December 2017, we have secured four pediatric practices to serve as pilot sites in California and New York. Initial onboarding calls and site visits have been conducted to develop individualized plans for incorporating ACEs screening into the pediatric workflows, and the official integration will occur in 2018. Funding secured for the development of the Stress Health campaign and NPPC is from The JPB Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the California Endowment, but we are continuing to seek support to allow us to continue to develop the initiatives and scale over the next 5 years.

Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (5000 characters)

Because of our human centered design approach, explained in further detail below, and our thoughtful and strategic development of both initiatives, we feel confident in the viability of both Stress Health and the NPPC to reach and motivate our intended audiences to action. The Center for Youth Wellness recently conducted a five-year strategic plan outlining our anticipated activities, milestones, and expenses associated with Stress Health and the NPPC, providing a roadmap and framework for us to expand and continue innovating on these initiatives. One component of the NPPC model that we feel will support its viability is the disbursement of a stipend to the pilot site practices, understanding that the implementation of new processes and protocols in medical practices requires use of funds in addition to staff time. The motivation for launching the NPPC was based on conversations with other providers and recognizing a need for resources around ACEs screening and learning from practices who have successfully implemented screening. Because of this, we feel the NPPC will fill a gap for medical providers and prove to be a beneficial, connecting community to ultimately improve the health of children. The Stress Health campaign has begun preliminary testing of the 15-second video through Facebook specifically targeting parents and caregivers of children ages 0-5. Our preliminary goals through this testing phase were to deliver 1 million impressions and 500,000 video views. The early results of the tests have far exceeded our expectations--in two months, we have reached 2 million parents/caregivers and the video has been viewed approximately 1 million times, showing us that the initiative is resonating with this audience. In addition to video views, we are also tracking the growth of the CYW Facebook community through page likes. To date, CYW has 30,908 followers on Facebook--an increase of nearly 23,000 since November 2017. Further down the line, we will also be tracking the number of video views that lead to visiting our website, which will indicate motivation to action among our audiences. We will also be tracking engagement with the resources and tools on the website to continue to refine and augment content development and delivery models.

HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (5000 characters)

CYW leaned heavily on human centered design in order to develop messaging and strategies for both the Stress Health initiative and the NPPC. In early 2017, our teams conducted randomized interviews with parents, caregivers, and pediatricians in both urban and rural areas of the US to better understand their awareness of ACEs and screening practices. These interviews collected both quantitative and qualitative data and provided invaluable insight which enabled our teams to determine the most effective messaging to reach our intended audiences and, ideally, motivate them to action. Many parents and caregivers with whom we spoke were hearing about the effects of childhood adversity for the first time, causing them to be reflective of both their own parenting and their experiences as children. We heard from many parents and caregivers that a common assumption is that children are resilient and therefore exposure to stressful circumstances does not affect them. 70% of parents and caregivers surveyed believe that children ages 0-5 are not impacted by negative experiences because they are too young to remember or recognize challenging or stressful situations. However, once educated about the types of ACEs and the potential long-term health effects, 81% of parents and caregivers believed that exposure to even one ACE could make a child age 0-5 vulnerable to mental and physical impacts. Finally, we learned from parents and caregivers that pediatricians are a trusted resource for addressing the health effects of adversity, which helped validate our belief and rationale for targeting both parents and pediatric providers. For our interviews with pediatricians, we spoke with a mix of providers who are currently screening for ACEs in their practices and those who are not. From our surveys with non-screeners, we learned that there is relatively low awareness of ACEs but, similar to parents, a belief that adversity has the potential to negatively impact children’s health. Providers who were already screening for ACEs shared similar experiences in their discovery of adversity, in seeing patients, primarily in low-income communities, that showed consistent symptoms and conducting further research to understand that their patients were exhibiting signs of toxic stress. For those who were not already screening, we inquired about their interest in participating in a larger community to learn about screening and receive resources in order to better define our strategy for the NPPC. We also hope to conduct further quantitative analysis on pediatric providers later this year to yield further data around the number of pediatric practices currently screening for ACEs in the US.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

CYW is working to build a healthier future for children exposed to childhood adversity. ACEs are highly traumatic events, such as abuse and neglect, that cause the extreme, frequent, or extended activation of the body's "fight or flight" stress response. Prolonged exposure to ACEs can lead to toxic stress, which has been shown scientifically to negatively reprogram children's hypothalamic­-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and lead to chronic inflammation, compromised immune system functionality, and long-­term negative health and life consequences. Our idea was brought forth as a solution to the three biggest problems CYW is working to solve directly related to the overarching problem of addressing ACEs across the country: 1. The need for advancing clinical practices for early detection of and treatment for the impacts of ACEs and toxic stress on children. 2. The need to identify and translate the science and research of ACEs and toxic stress to educate pediatricians, parents, and policymakers on the impacts on children's health, learning, and behavior. 3. The need to build a movement of pediatricians, parents, and policymakers to take action to address ACEs and toxic stress. CYW is motivated by the idea of being able to change the way in which society responds to childhood adversity. We strive to equate the harmful effects of smoking on a child’s brain and body to that of toxic stress and make the issue of ACEs and toxic stress just as familiar to the general public. In recognizing the profound, universal impact that ACEs have across the country, we are excited to broaden awareness and conversation around this issue while advocating for a more trauma-informed society across child-serving sectors. CYW has been working to improve the lives of children and adolescents exposed to ACEs since 2012. We utilize a multi-pronged approach to address the lifelong effects of childhood adversity and trauma by advancing clinical practice, translating the science of ACEs through research, and building a movement. CYW has served over 1,000 children and families in the Bayview neighborhood of San Francisco through our integrated pediatric care model which provides a comprehensive suite of trauma-informed services to patients. Each patient is screened for ACEs on a routine basis, allowing for early detection and intervention. Our clinical research program investigates and evaluates best practices for ACEs assessment and intervention to address the effects of toxic stress, and has published dozens of reports and manuscripts on their findings. CYW’s movement building program is building awareness around the issue of ACEs by advancing an ACEs policy agenda to change local and national systems in promoting trauma-informed care, and through the initiatives set forth here: by developing a national campaign to build public understanding of ACEs and creating a national network of pediatric clinicians to adopt ACEs screening into their medical practices.

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (600 characters)

CYW seeks partnerships with child-focused programs and medical schools to support the integration of an ACEs framework into their work and training models. We are currently developing partnerships with organizations to deepen our engagement with families, and have an existing partnership with Zero to Three to produce co-branded content incorporating ACEs topics that will be targeted to parents and pediatricians. Partnering with medical schools would allow us to identify ways in which physicians in training and early professionals can best be supported to carry ACEs concepts into their practice

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

As we continue to test and refine our campaign messages, develop content and resources, and expand the pediatric practice community, we hope to have comprehensive analytics and evaluation models in place in order to show impact and evaluate our effectiveness in reaching parents and conducting ACEs screening. Currently, we have a Campaign Relationship Management (CRM) tool in place for the Stress Health initiative to obtain and analyze data from numerous sources for our test and learn phase of the campaign. We also have an evaluation model in place for the NPPC which is assessing baseline data of enrolled providers and will begin analyzing data on a monthly basis from pilot site partners. To bolster this existing work, we would seek expertise that would allow us to track further progress on the Stress Health campaign and NPPC independently as well as cumulatively in order to effectively iterate and continue to ensure that we are making an impact on parents/caregivers, children, and the pediatric community.

Would you like mentoring support?

  • Yes

If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters)

As mentioned in the question above, CYW would seek mentoring support which could provide guidance around tracking analytics and developing evaluation models for the NPPC and the Stress Health initiative. Along with this, we would be interested in receiving mentorship from individuals with expertise around best practices for developing and executing community education initiatives or community partnerships.

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc).

[Optional] Attachments: Please upload relevant attachments or graphics or show us how you prototyped.

Mentorship: How was your idea supported? (5000 characters)

As mentioned in our 'Updates' section, the Center for Youth Wellness was matched with a mentor who provided helpful insights into the new user experience for the Stress Health website ( In addition, given the specificity of our concept and the need to both educate users on the issue of ACEs and toxic stress in addition to the offerings of our innovation, Whitney provided guidance around ways to make the issue more clear and accessible to those who may not be familiar with childhood adversity in understanding our innovation. While mentorship did not result in us changing any major aspects of our idea, we understood how crucial user interaction will be to continued iterations of our websites and messaging. We hope to stay in touch with Whitney as we continue rolling out our innovation, and are grateful for her time and interest in our work.

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Carlton Chen

Hi, Kara. Your CYW program on ACE is very powerful. I was amazed by Dr. Burke Harris' TED MED speech on How Childhood Trauma Affects Health across a Lifetime... her message was so focused and clear. As an Early Innovator with our Early Childhood Sleep Literacy Project for young children 0-3, we parallel a lot of what CYW proposes. Perhaps we can collaborate on the education message to parents of young children and caregivers. Kind regards, Carlton