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The Lasting Effect of Adverse Childhood Experiences

Nearly 35 million children suffer from situations or experiences that put them at a higher risk of developing long-term health and behavioral issues in their adult years. Known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), the research surrounding it is becoming more prevalent. Despite this growing research, the medical community doesn’t have a universal screening test to help identify and provide the necessary treatment to a child affected by ACEs.

ACEs are defined as potentially traumatic events experienced by children. Contrary to common belief, childhood adversity and toxic stress can affect a child of any age. A child who is too young to verbalize their reactions or fully process an experience can still be affected by it, according to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

There are 10 different types of ACEs that fall within three larger categories: abuse, neglect and household dysfunction.

  • Abuse includes physical, emotional and sexual abuse to a child caused by an adult.
  • Neglect can be physical or emotional.
  • Household dysfunction can be present if a parent or caretaker experiences domestic violence, abuses alcohol or drugs, suffers from mental illness, becomes incarcerated or separates from or divorces the other parent or caretaker.

If a child experiences any one of these ACEs, it may lead to disrupted neurodevelopment, social, emotional and cognitive impairment, health-risk behaviors such as substance abuse or acts of violence, adult diseases, disability, social problems and even early death.

The National Pediatric Practice Community (NPPC), an initiative of the Center for Youth Wellness, is taking the lead by helping raise awareness and encouraging pediatric primary care providers to integrate universal ACEs screenings into their practices.

Oftentimes, it can be difficult to detect whether a child is experiencing abuse, neglect or household dysfunction. But a screening allows pediatric primary care providers to ask children, adolescents, parents and caretakers a series of questions in the exam room to help identify whether a child or adolescent is suffering from an Adverse Childhood Experience before they may begin to show visible signs.

“It’s important that pediatricians administer these screenings to children, because they can help intervene and connect a child to the tools they need before it affects them over the long-term,” explains Leena Singh, program director of the National Pediatric Practice Community (NPPC) on ACEs.

UnitedHealthcare collaborated with the Center for Youth Wellness and Optum Health Education to host webinars that help educate not only pediatricians and other primary care providers on ACEs but also psychologists, teachers, social workers and anyone who touches the life of a child at no cost. These webinars will help explain what Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are, the research behind how it can have lasting effects on a person’s health and wellbeing and what steps providers can take to implement ACEs screenings into their practices.

Dr. Robin Blitz shares more about why ACEs matter and the value these webinars can offer medical professionals.

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To learn more about these webinars or to sign up, click the PDF on the right or the links below.

Part I: Introduction to ACEs
Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, from 1 p.m. – 2 p.m. ET
Click here to sign up

Part II: How to Screen for ACEs in Pediatric Practice
Wednesday, March 6, 2019, from 1 p.m. – 2 p.m. ET
Click here to sign up