With the seminal study of “ACEs” or Adverse Childhood Experiences in the late 1990s, came the long overdue recognition that experiences of abuse and neglect in childhood increase risk, in later life, of a wide variety of health problems, from depression and anxiety disorders to cancers, lung disease and heart disease. Growing along with research into ACEs, has been a focus on resilience and factors that can mitigate the negative impacts of childhood trauma.
Alaska’s Pediatric Partnership recently hosted a “Resiliency Day Community Leader’s Breakfast” where Katya Kalachevskiy, Clinical Case Management Supervisor; Julie Shewman, Intake Clinical Therapist; Anthony Hernandez, Training Specialist II; and myself were fortunate enough to be able to attend and represent AK Child & Family.
Dr. Robert Anda, a principal co-investigator of the original ACEs study, shared his fascinating research journey, from his early work as an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control, to his current role; traveling the nation and the world educating on how the ACEs study data can inform programs, policy, and legislation in preventing disease and disability. The easiest place to look up more information on ACEs data is at www.acestudy.org
Following a big picture overview from Dr. Anda, Dr. Joan Kaufman with the CARE (Community Alliance for Research & Engagement) program at Yale http://care.yale.edu/ spoke of lessons learned from the world of neuroscience. As Julie pointed out, Dr. Kaufman shared some very hopeful information about the plasticity of the brain, and the “take home” message about how positive relationships with adults and enriched environments (e.g. exposure to music, languages, sports opportunities, etc.) can help young people “catch up,” when their development has been hindered by adverse experiences.
Chris Soderquist, a consultant, and advocate for “Systems Thinking” then spoke about applying an “ACEs” lens to economic & workforce development issues - he presented data on the economic costs of ACEs, and had us think about all the work days lost to illness, disability, and life problems as a result of earlier traumas. It was a powerful call to action to government & large corporations to play a part in promoting healthy childhoods.
It was encouraging to see members of various health, social service, educational and business entities from around Anchorage and the Mat-Su valley come together at this breakfast meeting and engage with what the science of childhood experiences has to tell us. One piece of information that really struck a chord was the message that any intervention that prevents a child from accumulating any additional “ACEs” is an intervention that increases that child’s chances of living a long, successful and healthy life. Here at AK Child & Family, we are not only actively engaged in treatment work for current challenges and difficulties, but are working with an eye to prevention and to building up resilience in our students, and in our community.