Addressing the Comorbidity of Trauma and Obesity Among Children

Poster: Addressing the Comorbidity of Trauma and Obesity Among Children in PCP

Research is assessing the effect of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on the prevalence of childhood obesity.  

Unlike home and school settings, where obesity may not be recognized properly, a behavioral health specialist (BHS) working within a primary care model is an ideal person to detect and address comorbid childhood obesity and trauma-related disorders. 

Early intervention in addressing obesity and trauma-related disorders will potentially reduce symptoms such as anxiety and depression, and even have the capability to reduce the likelihood of obesity.

The role of a BHS in an integrated primary care model will serve to assess and treat such conditions in a “validating, non-stigmatizing, and safe environment.”

Study Method

  • Pediatric patients ages 4 to 18 (min. age 4 years old)
  • Family health care center around Louisville metropolitan area
  • BMI will be collected from patient
  • BHC will conduct interviews among patients to gather information from patient or guardian about the patient’s history utilizing ACEs.
  • Correlation analysis will be conducted between the number of ACEs and BMI.
  • According to past ACE studies conducted among adults, researchers hypothesized that children with history of ACEs will be overrepresented among obese pediatric patients and children with more than one ACE are more likely to be overweight or obese than those with one ACE. A positive correlation between number of ACEs and BMI will be seen.


Due to the exploratory nature of this study, any correlation between ACEs and pediatric obesity can only be inferred from results. Socioeconomic status is a potential confounding variable in that it may impact access to health food, and geographical factors such as proximity to grocery stores are also factors to consider. ACEs may be underreported in primary care settings being that caregivers, who are usually the culprits of childhood maltreatment, are present during exams where children may not report incidences of trauma or mistreatment.  

Next steps include more exploration into the causal links between ACEs and BMI, such as assessing eating and exercise behaviors before and after exposure to an ACE and how they contribute to obesity.