Talkeetna: (907) 733-2273 ~ Willow: (907) 495-4100 ~ Wasilla: (907) 376-2273

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How Trauma and Stress as Young Children Affect Our Health as We Age?

What is an ACE Score
Childhood experiences and interactions significantly influence the architecture of our developing brains. These early experiences affect the way we view ourselves and our environment, how we learn or cope with life’s challenges, and the relationships we form as adults. Positive experiences during our youth contribute to healthy and productive adulthood. In contrast, negative experiences can lead to poorer mental, and physical health as adults. So, you could accurately say that the biology of our health and development is intertwined with the experiences we have over our lifetime with our families, relationships, communities, and neighborhoods.

The foundational research behind this concept comes from a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente from 1995 to 1998 called the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. The study investigated the association between childhood experiences and lifelong health.

ACES fall into three categories outlined below:

Behaviors and health risks associated with ACES are illustrated below:

Your ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences Score) is a running total of different types of abuse or neglect you’ve experienced during childhood. ACES tend to be passed down from through generations and are common across all races, genders and economic standings. Answer the questions below to find your score:

Now you have your ACE Score. What do you do with that information?

ACES Are Not Destiny – Keep in mind that an ACE scores are for guidance. They’re not a cut and dry prediction of your future. They don’t consider your diet, activity level or genes, or if you smoke or drink excessively — which are also major influences on health.

Positive Experiences – ACE scores don’t account for other positive experiences in youth that increase resilience and protect children from trauma. For example, having:

  • a grandparent or other adult family member who loved and cared for you,
  • a teacher who understands and believed in and encouraged you,
  • a trusted friend in whom you could confide.

All these factors may reduce the long-term effects of early trauma.

Resilience – the ability to overcome severe hardship, builds throughout our lives. Recent research also suggests that for adults, “trauma informed” therapy — which can center on art, yoga or mindfulness training — can help.

“There are people with high ACE scores who do remarkably well,” says Jack Shonkoff, a pediatrician, and director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.

Learn More – Get informed and find tools and resources available to help reduce the impact of ACES in your community. ACES Study co-founder, Robert Anda, MD says “What’s predictable is preventable.” Your ACE Score can be a tool for understanding your own risk for health and social problems. This can empower you to make changes for you and your family.

Providers at Sunshine Community Health Center incorporate behavioral health screening as part of each patient’s medical histories. We ask every person about symptoms of depression, nutrition, exercise and tobacco, alcohol or other drugs. We do not make judgments about our patient’s lifestyles as good or bad. Some habits may have a positive or negative impact on your health and we want to provide information and help you set and attain health-related goals that are important to you.

Get Involved – The foundations of a successful community rest on the health and competence of its population. Participate in community events or volunteer and be a positive connection for children you come in contact with. Research suggests that just one caring, safe relationship early in life gives any child a much better shot at growing up healthy. The extent to which we can build capacities in all children to deal with obstacles or difficult experiences in their lives is an investment in building strong human capital and healthy productive adults. 

Work to interrupt the cycle of adversity and improve health and well-being for our next generation of Upper Susitna Valley residents. Become “trauma informed” and consider the source of bad behavior when dealing with difficult children or community members to avoid the possibility of re-traumatizing triggers.

 

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Click here to meet our Behavioral Health team.

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Pediatric Care at Sunshine

Schedule a visit with and experienced family medicine doctor focused on developmental milestones, safety, nutrition and your family’s emotional well-being.

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