ACES or Adverse Childhood Experiences are traumatic events or situations like divorce, abuse, neglect, and food insecurity that we know from research can increase our risk for poor health outcomes. ACES can lead to obesity, heart disease, alcohol and drug abuse, and poor mental health outcomes including suicide.
21% of Maine high school youth identified as having 3 or more ACES in the 2019 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey. This is a higher percentage than other states. What’s more, the Maine survey did not determine youth living in poverty or in substance abusing families – which we know are two common ACES.
Some of the concepts learned from ACES:
- High ACES in girls are highly predictive of future heroin use.
- Sexual abuse seems to affect girls more deeply than boys, while boys seem to be affected more deeply by neglect.
- People with a high ACES “score” are also more likely to have a shorter life span.
- ACES are passed down at a genetic level. People can be affected by the trauma of their ancestors.
- Where there is one ACE, there is often more.
Adults can learn how to understand this research, identify ACES in children they care for – but more importantly what to do – in small and institutional ways. Choose To Be Healthy works with local schools and other caring adults to bring the this concept and learn how to build resiliency to our communities.
To learn more about this topic, we have compiled some resources here:
- Short You Tube video from the CDC that explains ACES simply.
- Inspiring Ted Talk from a pediatrician who used the ACES model to transform her care of children.
Building Resiliency: The Science of Mattering
Dr. Christine Bethell of Johns Hopkins University is an expert on resilience. Her recent talk at a Maine Resilience Building Network conference helped people understand the science of mattering and how to bring it to our lives and those we care for.
You can watch Dr. Bethell’s part of her presentations here
Go to Maine Resilience Building Network for resources, videos and upcoming events.
Thank you to the Maine Resilience Building Network for their dedication to this often neglected health issue and to giving us permission to post the presentation here with other recommended resources.