Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events endured by children that may have long-lasting negative impacts on their lives. These experiences, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse, as well as household dysfunction, are linked with numerous negative health outcomes such as binge drinking, smoking, and depression. Such traumatic events are more commonplace than one would suspect. Results from a 2018 study conducted by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare showed that 65% of Idaho adults have experienced at least one ACE, and nearly one in four (23%) experienced four or more ACEs.
As April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, this is a great time to consider ways to minimize the impact ACEs can have on children and their families. At Terry Reilly, we strive to create opportunities for positive interactions between adult and child patients that model healthy interactions and create safe spaces for otherwise stressful life events.
There are many ways that we can demonstrate safety and trust to our patients. Our providers model consent when they ask permission to look inside a mouth or listen to a heart. We ask for two patient identifiers not only to comply with HIPPA but also to assure our patients that we work to keep their information private. We inform patients that we will keep their confidentiality as long as no one is hurting them and they are not hurting others. We ask questions about their safety and take steps to remedy the situation when they are not. We may not always be able to prevent abuse, but we offer resources when we know there has been trauma.
One example is free counseling for all Terry Reilly OB patients with ACEs. A 2018 study by the American Academy of Pediatric showed that children of parents with an ACEs score of 4 and higher are significantly more likely to suffer from behavioral health problems. Awareness of both a parent and child’s ACEs score assist providers in considering other interventions that could help families such as counseling, addiction treatment, medication, and parenting classes. If we hope to reduce child abuse, we must also prioritize addressing the trauma of parents if we have any hope in reducing the intergenerational impacts.
Child Abuse Prevention Month is a good reminder for us all that trauma can have long-term effects and we have ways of helping patients heal and move forward in their lives.