The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new report, Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Leveraging the Best Available Evidence, last week. Research and studies have proven that ACEs is a critical public health issue. The report estimates the number of Americans that are affected by adverse childhood experiences and provides strategies for primary prevention of ACEs as well as addressing how to lessen harms when ACEs do occur. CDC confirms that childhood trauma is a public health issue and is preventable.

Findings indicated that nearly 60 percent of Americans experience at least one adverse experience during their childhood and 15.6 percent experienced four or more different types. Childhood trauma is directly correlated with a person’s health outcomes and can prevent many of the diseases and illnesses that people face like heart disease and depression.

Negative experiences include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, emotional neglect, physical neglect, domestic violence, substance abuse, having an incarcerated care provider, and mental illness within the home. Research demonstrates that the more of these experiences within childhood the more likely there are going to be negative results into adulthood including mental, behavioral and negative health outcomes with outcomes impacting on how a parent may act and interact with their own children.

ACEs have been linked to harmful outcomes in adulthood, including health issues like depression, anxiety, substance use and abuse, and poor physical health. A person who has four or more types of ACEs are at a higher risk of negative outcomes.

CDC strategies that can prevent ACEs from happening or re-occurring are included in the Technical Package of six strategies:
1. Strengthen economic supports to families
2. Promote social norms that protect against violence and adversity
3. Ensure a strong start for children
4. Teach skills
5. Connect youth to caring adults and activities
6. Intervene to lessen immediate and long-term harms

ACEs is preventable and the strategies outlined in the CDC report confirms that strategies and several approaches are proven to be effective and is essential in helping children and adults thrive. The various approaches and programs that can be used as evidence to prevent ACEs include early childhood home visitation, mentoring programs, and family-centered treatment for substance use disorders have shown to support children and families.

About the Author:

John Sciamanna is CWLA's Vice President of Public Policy.

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