Pandemic Effects on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
“Adverse childhood experiences are the single greatest un-addressed public health threat facing our nation today” Robert W. Block, MD, FAAP, is a past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
I came across an interesting TedTalk about a pediatrician explaining how adverse childhood experiences (ACE's) affect health across a lifespan. She grabbed my attention from the very beginning by stating the CDC and Keiser Permanente in the mid 90’s discovered exposure to childhood trauma “dramatically increased the risk for seven out of 10 of the leading causes of death in the United States. In high doses, it affects brain development, the immune system, hormonal systems, and even the way our DNA is read and transcribed. Folks who are exposed in very high doses have triple the lifetime risk of heart disease and lung cancer and a 20-year difference in life expectancy.”
She goes on to talk about how exposure to adversity affects the growth of brains in children eventually leading them to make poor decisions because there are real neurologic reasons why individuals exposed to high doses of adversity are more likely to engage in high-risk behavior.
Everything she was talking about made me think of our pandemic kids. Sure, some kids, like my own Amelie, have thrived during this time. I recognized very early on the challenges and I did my best to ensure her happiness but I could write a whole other article on that topic. However, this article is for the kids who depended on school lunches, or relied on daily checks at school to make sure there weren’t new bruises from possible abuse. Gosh, for some kids just being isolated at home without social interaction for an entire year is traumatic enough. Point is, so many kids have struggled through this time and it will take patience, resolve, and a community to bind together for the good of our kids.
However, it doesn’t all have to be bleak information, because we know that we can counteract some of these traumas through support programs. Which brings me to my next point. How do we find, help and monitor these kids who have had a traumatic year?
The solution I propose might be less complicated than you think. The first step would be to incorporate a course that teaches emotional literacy to all kids. Furthermore, we should ask the kids these 10 questions (ACE test) that will be the gateway to treatment. This should be done at the beginning of the school year, in the privacy and safety of school teachers and counselors. Once we find out who these kids are, they get enrolled in programs that will ensure their wellbeing. It almost sounds too simple to work but I strongly believe it can. These support programs already exist through Our Community Partners. The wheel doesn’t have to be re-invented, we just need a way to direct people to the services that exist in our community and there needs to be financial support going towards these organizations.
Since the inception of Choice MD, I wholeheartedly believed that individuals could improve their wellbeing through connections to organizations that would provide them with the knowledge to succeed. I just never imagined Choice MD’s test would be the recovery from year and a half long worldwide pandemic.
Lastly, just as Dr. Nadine Burke Harris states in her presentation. "When we have the right framework, when we recognize this to be a public health crisis, then we can begin to use the right tool kit to come up with solutions." I assure you that Choice MD working in conjunction with our many partners is that tool kit and I invite you to click on any of our community partners logo from our homepage to find out more.