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Over the past two decades, research focused on the causes and the lasting impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, has been changing the way researchers, healthcare providers, and advocates approach areas like mental health, risky behaviors, and chronic disease. Numerous studies have produced and solidified results that present three undeniable truths:

(1) the vast majority of Americans have experienced some form of trauma in their childhood,

(2) people with low income or educational attainment and people of color experience increased instances of childhood trauma and adversity, and

(3) the more childhood trauma an individual experiences, the higher the risk that he or she will be exposed to “multiple risk factors for several of the leading causes of death in adults.”

The causal link between childhood trauma and negative health outcomes has been shown to be so severe that Dr. Robert Block, former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, notably stated, “Adverse Childhood Experiences are the single greatest unaddressed public health threat facing our nation today.”

Childhood trauma and adversity has shaped the music, careers, and lives of many of hip-hop’s brightest stars. The lasting impact of traumatic childhood experiences has propelled some artists to international stardom, as listeners around the globe are able to connect with them through the honest and raw lyrics and musical styles born out of, and in spite of, such adversity. What can hip-hop, a proud and storied genre that is no stranger to taking on taboo topics, and its artists, many of whom are the products of communities teeming with adversity, tell us about Adverse Childhood Experiences? How can lawmakers, mental healthcare providers, and community activists work to address and curtail the prevalence and negative impact of childhood trauma through the framework provided to them by hip-hop artists and messages? Messages that dictate action by courageously challenging the complacent status quo, beginning with efforts that spread awareness and education, and building on the work of those in the field that have come before? What would laws and policies developed through a hip hop framework look like? This article seeks to answer these questions and to encourage immediate action in combating the epidemic of childhood trauma.

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