UCSF’s Center to Advance Trauma-informed Health Care (CTHC) is helping lead a movement to transform the US health care system to one that effectively addresses the traumatic roots of most illness, disability, and death. We treat individual patients, innovate clinical models of care, perform research, educate key stakeholders, and change health policies.
We are an academic center based at the University of California, San Francisco, but our work is not that of a traditional academic endeavor. We are a leader in the field of trauma and one of the earliest advocates for creating practical approaches to healing from trauma that the healthcare system can adopt. We do our work in close partnership with community-based organizations and people who have lived experiences of trauma.
The epiphany that inspired the Center to Advance Trauma-informed Care came from two decades of pioneering work at the UCSF Women’s HIV Program, the first program in the country specifically designed for women living with HIV. We found we were losing patients far too often despite our success in delivering lifesaving anti-HIV medications. We realized that only 16 percent of our patient deaths were due to HIV/AIDS and that most deaths were due to events such as depression, suicide, murder, drug overdoses and lung diseases that are directly related to adult and childhood experiences of trauma.
Our experience with our patients taught us an undeniable truth: the massive U.S. healthcare system essentially ignores our leading cause of illness, death and disability–trauma. We also realized that trauma is having a devastating impact on the health of a broad spectrum of the U.S. population, regardless of someone’s HIV status. CTHC now seeks to lead a health system response to trauma, not only for those with HIV, but also for the large number of individuals experiencing many other trauma-related health conditions
Our work is organized around the social entrepreneurship methodology of system transformation. This methodology recognizes that a movement is required when innovations in healthcare are high value but not immediately profit generating. At CTHC, the movement we are helping to lead envisions trauma-informed care as the foundation for the most effective and compassionate relationships with patients. It is the best promise for the future of health care, one that moves from treatment of illness to genuine healing.