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We Are the Medicine® Framework
A New Science of Thriving to Foster Flourishing Right Where We Are Today

Christina Bethell, PhD, MBA, MPH


The We Are the Medicine® (WAM) framework was created in 2014 to shape the collaborative design of a national agenda to promote child and family well-being by addressing adverse childhood experiences. See this We Are the Medicine kick-off video.

The We Are the Medicine® framework recognizes the need and possibility to dramatically improve child, youth, family, and community flourishing by fostering the relational and emotional roots of well-being as a public health strategy. It shines a light on our innate capacity to flourish, even in the midst of adversity, and actions we can take right now to move toward the healing and transformation our current syndemic of childhood adversity, intergenerational and collective trauma requires. This framework seeks to awaken and activate possibilities to heal and reset current trajectories to create an unstoppable self, family, and community-led healing and flourishing movement in society, research, policy, and practice.

The We Are the Medicine framework sets forth six key premises to frame the need and opportunity. Six principles are outlined to guide the translation of a new integrated science of thriving to advance much needed improvements in the positive and relational health of children, youth families and communities. Dr. Bethell’s “six wishes” guide priority actions for policy and practice.

The We Are the Medicine framework rests on six key premises to advance population health. The framework:

  • Emphasizes the cross-cutting role of safe, stable, nurturing relationships to healthy child brain development and health across life and the need to build a caring capacity
  • Legitimizes the known impact of embedded and chronic stress on child development and well-being and adult health
  • Calls out the syndemic of adverse childhood experiences and the possibilities arising from a new science of thriving to promote self-led individual, family, community, and organizational healing
  • Recognizes that child development depends on adult development and the urgency to promote healthy parenting, positive childhood experiences, and a “Your being, their well-being” model for parents, teachers, doctors, practitioners, and all who support children.
  • Concludes that the health of children and our nation calls us to squarely promote positive health and to heal developmental trauma --employing “through any door” relationship-centered approaches that engage people in citizen science to learn what works for whom

Six "New Science of Thriving" principles guide approaches and action in the We Are the Medicine framework. The framework:


  • Concerns itself with the capacity for positive child and human development even amid adversity.
  • Frames well-being as a learned ability requiring enabling context
  • Places the locus of human health and dynamics of development within the relational, social, emotional, and environmental context we co-create
  • Balances the conventional focus on risk and pathology with an explicit focus on what is already whole, strengths and restoration.
  • Innovates to engage largely untapped capacities for self, family and community led healing and resilience and harness opportunities to shift health, education, and social norms & practices
  • Builds a “through any door” capacity across health, education, social sectors to prevent intra and interpersonal harm, optimize positive self-care behaviors, and create an epidemic of flourishing.

"Mindfulness is a necessary state to be in to live your life. All growth occurs because you are in a state of mindfulness. Without mindfulness, there is no growth.” - Bessel van der Kolk

Resources and References:

  1. We Are the Medicine kick off meeting video:
  2. Link to a Stanford School of Medicine interview after a ChildX “We Are the Medicine” talk:
  3. Prioritizing Possibilities for Child and Family Well Being: A National Agenda to Address Adverse Childhood Experiences and Promote the Social and Relational Roots of Well Being
  4. Positive Childhood Experiences and Adult Mental and Social Health Across Adverse Childhood Experiences Exposure
  5. Short NPR story on the Positive Childhood Experiences JAMA study:
  6. Social and Relational Factors and Children’s Common Mental Health Conditions: The Mitigating Role of Family Resilience and Connection to Promote Resilience and School Readiness and Engagement
  7. Flourishing From the Start: What Is IT and How Can It Be Measured?
  8. Initial population based paper on prevalence, impacts and opportunities to mitigate risk from Adverse Childhood Experiences




In 2016, Dr. Bethell wrote "The New Science of Thriving" for the Johns Hopkins Public Health Forum in which she describes her Your Being, Their Well-Being philosophy.

Read the story here!