A Closer Look at Our Strategic Plan: Equipping Communities with Trauma-Informed Practices

Mother and child drawing

In October 2020, the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York announced a new vision statement and strategic plan that will guide the work of the Health Foundation through 2025. An extensive planning process that began in 2019 has resulted in a new organizational vision statement, as well as three long-term goals and corresponding mid-term goals to pursue that vision. Our new vision is a healthy central and western New York where racial and socioeconomic equity are prioritized so all people can reach their full potential and achieve equitable health outcomes.

The Health Foundation’s mission will continue to be improving the health and health care of the people and communities of western and central New York. The plan also reaffirmed the Health Foundation’s commitment to young children impacted by poverty; older adults; and the community-based organizations that serve them.

Our new vision will be pursued through a set of long- and mid-term goals.  Read more about our new strategic plan here

We are sharing more details about our new strategic plan in a series of overview documents that take a closer look at each of our midterm goals. 

Midterm Goal 1: Communities are equipped to deliver trauma-informed practices and invested in preventing trauma.

The Health Foundation for Western and Central New York is well-positioned to serve as a leader in supporting trauma-informed care for children, families, and older adults.  The Health Foundation’s work to-date on trauma has focused on young children and has raised the profile of trauma locally. This has corresponded with an increasing awareness nationally of the lifelong impact that trauma has on children’s physical and mental health.

However, there is much less awareness and understanding of how trauma impacts older adults. How does it relate to their emotional well-being, susceptibility to elder mistreatment and abuse, and their end-of-life wishes? The Health Foundation has built relationships with experts in trauma, and, using the lessons learned from Co-Creating Well-Being, plans to lead the region in exploring and understanding how trauma impacts older adults, while continuing to invest in efforts to prevent and mitigate childhood trauma.


Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can have significant long-term consequences for physical and emotional health. The risk from ACEs is cumulative. As an individual’s ACEs score increases, so does their risk for premature death. There were ten ACEs identified in the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Study that first looked at how early childhood experiences affected health across the lifespan. Five of the original ten ACEs are personal — physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, and emotional neglect—and five are related to family members; a parent or caregiver who is an alcoholic, a parent who’s a victim of domestic violence, a family member in jail, a family member diagnosed with a mental illness, and the loss of a parent through divorce, death or abandonment.

Subsequent work on ACEs has expanded the list to include natural disasters, as well as poverty-related traumas such as chronic housing instability and food insecurity. This study found that ACEs are relatively common. Two-thirds of participants reported experiencing at least one ACE, and over 20 percent reported experiencing three or more ACEs.

Disparities: Children in New York State who are Black are more than twice as likely as non-Black children to experience two or more adverse childhood events. This disparity has remained relatively stable, as have total levels of ACEs.

Living in poverty and experiencing trauma are both influential risk factors for young families. Poverty presents challenges such as food insecurity, inadequate housing, decrements in school readiness and educational attainment, and a lack of preventative health and dental care.

There are approximately 15 million children living in families experiencing poverty in the US. This represents 21 percent of all US children. Black, Native, and Hispanic children are twice as likely to live with chronic scarcity as white children. In western New York, rates are even higher, with over 30 percent of children under the age of five living in poverty. In Syracuse, 44 percent of children live in poverty, and the city consistently is ranked as one of the poorest cities in America.  

Trauma in western and central New York Most of the core ACEs are forms of child abuse and maltreatment that can result in a family becoming involved with the child welfare system. Using reports of abuse/maltreatment as an indicator serves as a proxy measure for understanding rates of ACEs in our community. This indicator also relates to future work under this midterm goal related to preventing ACEs; the most preventable ACEs are ones related to parenting. Looking at the two regions the Health Foundation serves, rural counties tend to have the highest rate of indicated reports.

READ THE FULL OVERVIEW: Want to learn more about the Health Foundation’s work in trauma-informed practices, and how it supports our new strategic plan and vision? Read the Midterm Goal 1 overview document here.