This post, written by Kate Wiebe, originally was published on November 10, 2015, on the ICTG blog.
ACEs stands for the Adverse Childhood Experience Study. If you've been following this blog, you know we talk about them frequently. To learn more about them, you might try visiting the list resources below that explain why ACEs matter to communities and how medical professionals are beginning to address the massive problem. You also can find out more about the ACE study origins, as well as learn about an ever-expanding network of professionals who utilize this study in their own settings.
Perhaps most profound thing about the ACE study – besides the significant fact that it demonstrated trauma does not discriminate and exists in every community in the country – is the strong correlation it demonstrated between childhood experiences and adult onset illnesses.
The ACE study found that survivors of childhood trauma are nearly 5000% (yes, you read all those zeros correctly) more likely to attempt suicide, have eating disorders, or become IV drug users. Dr. Vincent Felitti, the study's founder and co-conductor, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, details this remarkable and powerful connection.
"With an ACE score of six – experiencing any six of the ten categories that we studied – that person was 4,600% more likely to become an IV drug user than a person who experienced none of those six categories. Now you read in the newspaper the latest cancer cure of the week – prostate cancer or breast cancer increases 30% and everyone goes nuts – I'm talking 4,600% increase. The same ACE score of six produces a likelihood of attempting suicide between 3,100% and 5,000% greater than the likelihood of suicide attempts in someone with none of those life experiences. So the power of this relationship is enormous."
The magnitude of this correlation, and the complexity of dealing with the problem of severe stress in childhood after the fact is so huge, Dr. Felitti, says, realistically the only serious and effective approach is going to have to involve primary prevention. He admits, "No one knows how to do that, but it's the right question to focus on."
The only serious and effective approach is going to have to involve primary prevention.
At ICTG, we recognize how community groups, schools, after-school programs, and congregations are prime locations for not only putting that question at the forefront but also for providing primary prevention.
Trauma Informed Community Practices for Prevention
Ideally, our community's organizations are safe havens from life's storms. They are the place where play, education, worship, and mission derive from true restoration of body, mind, and spirit in community. Every day, you, as a leader or volunteer, are invited into making it so.
Share your stories in the comments below about how you see healing from ACEs happening in your congregation.
TED TALK by Nadine Burke Harris
ACE STUDY ORIGINS by the CDC
Center for Youth Wellness website
ACES TOO HIGH website
VIDEO by Vincent Felitti
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