Many of us experienced some type of highly stressful or traumatic event in our childhood. We may have had effective “buffers”: people like a trusted teacher, coach, therapist, or supportive family and friends. Or, depending on our age at the time, we may have decided we could handle our reactions on our own.
But, are you aware of the lifelong physical health issues scientists have found to be associated with Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs? Take our quick questionnaire to find out your ACEs score, then come back here to learn what it might mean for your physical health.
ACEs are the single greatest unaddressed public health threat facing our nation today.
- Dr. Robert Block, former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics
ACEs threaten public health
Research by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control showed that ACEs scores are correlated with health outcomes. Children and adults with high scores (4 or more) are:
“Children are especially sensitive to repeated stress activation because their brains and bodies are just developing,” said Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, pediatrician, in a 2014 TEDMED talk. “High doses of adversity not only affect brain structure and function, it also affects the developing immune system, developing hormonal systems, and even the way our DNA is read and transcribed.”
The need for routine screening and early intervention through play therapy, mental health services, child-parent psychotherapy, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, and positive parenting programs is evident. “ACEs are the single greatest unaddressed public health threat facing our nation today,” said Dr. Robert Block, former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
How can we intervene?
Abuse and neglect don’t discriminate. Neither do behavior issues or family dysfunction. But by helping children heal, each of us can stop the ongoing, repeated cycle of abuse and adversity.
Public awareness and education expands the ability and capacity for the entire community, including schools, organizations and businesses, to respond to the needs of children exposed to early adversity. In Palm Beach County, anyone who knows and cares about a child who has experienced ACEs can turn to the Center for Child Counseling.
Our mission is to foster healthy, resilient children and families through support, counseling, and awareness. In the next year, we will train 3,000 pediatricians, nurses, teachers, caregivers, police officers, and mental-health professionals to recognize the signs of ACEs.
Children deserve to live their lives free of abuse. We owe them a sense of security whether they’re at home or out in the world.
The Center for Child Counseling provides healing care to more than 2,400 children each year. Interested in learning how you can help fight childhood adversity in your community? Sign up to receive newsletter updates.
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