Most of us know very little about this, so Wednesday’s LWVOC Hot Topics was called “ACEs: The Biggest Public Health Crisis You’ve Never Heard Of.”
ACEs was born as a diagnosis after a 1990s study by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente, a health maintenance organization, found that Adverse Childhood Experiences between the ages of 0 to 17 can lead to severe childhood and adult problems.
Traumatic experiences in a child’s life include domestic violence, sexual abuse, drug use in the home and divorce, said Ann Pimentel Kerr of the Children’s Advocacy Center at Howard Phillips Center for Children & Families. “This changes how body and brain operate.”
Candice Jones, a general pediatrician, said ACEs can result in poor school performance, absenteeism at school or work, chronic health problems and toxic stress, among other problems she sees in her practice. The condition is common in all races and economic groups, she said, even though Kaiser studied mostly whites.
If Jones suspects a child has ACEs, she said, “I need to look deeper, to listen to the family and develop a plan.” In addition, she said, the whole community needs to be involved – schools, law enforcement, parents, doctors. Because there are still doctors who are unaware of ACEs, Jones said, the state of California has a program to train pediatricians.
And speaking of large states, the third member of Wednesday’s panel, attorney Roseanne Eckert, noted that Florida is one of the harshest states in punishing children, many of whom have probably been misdiagnosed. The courts have ruled that troubled childhoods must be considered in sentencing, the Supreme Court saying that children cannot be sentenced to life without parole. “Hundreds of children are being reassessed,” she said.
Eckert also put in a plug for more art, music and sports in schools. Those teachers and coaches, she said, are often effective mentors to troubled students. And as a community, she said, we need to trust kids and to give them more activities.
The program was moderated by radio-TV veteran Monica May, who read some of the tough questions children or their parents were asked in the Kaiser project.
Dr. Jones suggested visiting cdc.org for information on ACEs as well as the coronavirus. She said we must be sure our sources on the virus are legitimate.