Commentary

3 steps we can take to address childhood adversity


 

References

Twenty years ago, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine published Felitti and colleagues’ seminal publication on the relationship between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and poor mental and physical health.1 It is astonishing that mainstream medicine is only now taking this finding seriously under the current banner of “trauma informed care.” Better late than never.

In this issue of JFP, Stillerman provides a cogent summary of the research on diagnosis and treatment of ACEs performed over the past 20 years. There are good data supporting the effectiveness of identifying and treating ACEs to lessen the adverse health outcomes that can result. More important, however, is taking a public health approach to preventing the adverse health effects of ACEs by staging community interventions and providing support to new mothers and families.

Research strongly supports a causal relationship between ACEs and a host of mental and physical ailments. Felitti found that adults with 4 or more ACEs compared with none had a 4- to 12-fold increased health risk for alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, and suicide attempt. ACEs also increased the risk of ischemic heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, skeletal fractures, and liver disease.1

The research strongly supports a causal relationship between adverse childhood experiences and a host of mental and physical ailments.

There is need for further research on screening for, and treating, ACEs. A large randomized trial using one of the practical brief screeners would help us learn more about the impact that screening can have on the mental and physical health of those affected. Does the identification and empathetic acknowledgement of the traumatic events lead to improved health? If it does not, what type of treatment is most effective?

Continue to: Pending further research...

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