Childhood Trauma Action Plan Coming

Health experts today in San Diego plan to unveil a statewide action plan for a relatively new focus in the medical community — childhood adversity indicators.

They’re called ACE indicators, which stands for adverse childhood experience, and medical experts and recent studies have seen a correlation between high ACE scores representing childhood trauma and adult health risks and conditions.

Experts on the subject are gathering in San Diego today for a one-day summit, where they plan to release the first statewide action plan to target people with childhood adversity and trauma indicators.

“We think of it as the public health emergency that’s been hiding in plain view,” said Mark Cloutier, executive director of the Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco.

“Historically we’ve focused on trauma in children, but ACE expands that framework to understand other adversity faced by children,” he said.

Childhood adversity indicators include abuse, neglect, going hungry or having an absent parent. People with many ACE indicators are at higher risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, learning difficulties in school, contact with the justice system, poor impulse control, addiction, economic hardship and a host of other conditions, Cloutier said.

According to a report published in November 2014 by the Public Health Institute, based in San Francisco, children with four or more adverse childhood experiences were:

  • More than twice as likely to have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease later in life;
  • About twice as likely to have asthma;
  • At much higher risk of kidney disease and stroke;
  • More than five times as likely to suffer from depression; and
  • More than four times as likely to be diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s later in life.

“People with four or more ACE scores are not just more likely to face these effects,” Cloutier said, “they are likely to face them earlier and with greater severity.”

Policy makers across a spectrum of health and education settings should pay close attention to ACE scores, Cloutier said.

“In understanding the causes of these costly chronic diseases,” he said, “ACE is the single most promising tool to provide a framework for understanding and treating these costly and deadly conditions.

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