On July 28, 2018, Whole Child International Senior Policy Director, Gary Newton, gave the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame’s Eck Institute for Global Health. Graduates received a Master of Science in Global Health. Gary and Dr. Bernard Nahlen, the Institute director, are long time colleagues in the field of international development.

Gary used his speech to shift the focus of graduates who have been mainly immersed in the world of preventable childhood disease to the world of preventable childhood adversity. He used two recent high profile cases of childhood adversity – children lost in a cave in Thailand and children separated from parents at the US-Mexico border – as an entrée into the world of vulnerable children globally. To underscore the point that adversity in early childhood should be a core global health concern, Gary talked about the serious long-term health consequences of toxic stress that children can suffer from separation, neglect and abuse. While we are the cause of toxic stress, Gary said, we are also the prevention and cure — stable, nurturing, responsive caregiving is the antidote to toxic stress. He mentioned that this is what Whole Child International specializes in, attachment-based, relationship-centered care.

Gary concluded by saying:

“For you all on the cusp of great careers in global health, I hope and pray that you use your leadership, wisdom and wherewithal to:

Respond to the humanitarian emergency of children suffering from preventable disease and preventable violence, abuse and neglect.

Protect vulnerable children from collateral damage caused by bad public policy, political indifference and adults behaving badly.

And, enable vulnerable children to enjoy the health, rights and opportunities they are due — and which they require — to thrive and contribute a full measure of talent to family, community and nation.”

Congratulations to graduates for their hard work and accomplishments, and to Gary for delivering such an important and timely commencement address.

Photo by Peter Ringenberg/University of Notre Dame