Healthy Children, Healthy Communities
Americans everywhere, from citizens to leaders in business and government across the country, are awakening to the truth that our children must prosper if we want our communities to prosper.
We know that this prosperity can be supported by the many effective child development efforts being implemented around the country, such as services that focus on improving access to affordable health services, early childhood education, the role parents and caring adults have in a promoting a child’s personal health and safety, as well services such as home visiting.
Early Learning, Lifelong Success
While there is a great deal of public energy and attention rightfully focused on the quality of America's schools, we need more robust public policies at all levels of government—local, state and federal—to better ensure that children and their parents receive the services and supports that enable children to start school ready to learn and succeed. Early learning programs, home visiting and other innovative programs are helping us positively impact this issue, but too many children are still unable to access these services.
One relatively new area of recent and rapid advancement has been increased understanding about the earliest stages of human brain development. There have been significant advancements in this field that are helping us provide more effective parental education, programming and services that help ensure the most nurturing brain development opportunities for young children. The Baby Brain Map is one useful tool that parents can access for better understanding how their young child's brain is developing.
Healthy Environments, Healthy Experiences
As responsible managers for the nation’s children and the communities where they live and grow, we also know that we can do better when it comes to providing healthy environments for our children to live, learn and grow. It is critical that we focus on innovative and needed services that lay the foundation for children’s growth and development that reduces the later possibility of the very serious problems that we know can occur when children experience unhealthy levels of stress.
One seminal study that has delivered concrete evidence of the clear connections between unhealthy – or adverse – childhood experiences and the negative health and community impacts is the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study. The ACE Study is an ongoing collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente. Led by Doctors Robert F. Anda, MD, MS, and Vincent J. Felitti, MD, the ACE Study is perhaps the largest scientific research study of its kind, analyzing the relationship between multiple categories of childhood trauma (ACEs), and the resulting health and behavioral outcomes that can have an enormous impact on the entire community.
ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES (ACE) FACTS
Stressful or traumatic childhood experiences (known as Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs), such as abuse, neglect, witnessing domestic violence, or growing up with alcohol or other substance abuse, mental illness, parental discord, or crime in the home are a common pathway to social, emotional, and cognitive impairments.
- Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are a national health issue.
ACEs have a strong influence on issues that impact health as well as the community:
- Adolescent health
- Teen pregnancy and sexual behavior
- Smoking, alcohol and illicit drug abuse
- Mental health
- Risk of re-victimization
- Stability of relationships
- Performance in the workplace
- ACEs increase the risk of:
- Heart disease
- Chronic lung disease
- Liver disease
- HIV and STDs
- Other risks for leading causes of death
- When a child endures one adverse childhood experience, they often experience others as well:
- 81 percent of people who grew up in a household with substance abuse reported experiencing 2 or more additional adverse childhood experiences
The connection between Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and the impacts are long-term, powerful, cumulative, and likely to be nearly invisible to health care providers, educators, social service organizations, law enforcement and policy makers. The relationship between cause and effect is concealed by time, the inability to “see” the process of brain development, and because the effects of the original trauma may not become obviously manifest until much later in life.
But the good news is we know how to help ensure children have an opportunity for healthy growth and development, preventing adverse childhood experiences from ever occurring. We are advocating for the expansion of innovative programming such as home visiting services, increased funding for the prevention of shaken baby syndrome, child-friendly workplaces and comprehensive flex time programs. We are personally promoting the health and wellbeing of every child in our community, donating to child advocacy causes, participating in youth-focused community organizations and dedicating time to babysit or support family or friends who are under stress.
We are awakening a National Movement for America's Children that is helping provide an opportunity for all of America’s children to grow into healthy, caring and contributing adults.
The National Movement for America's Children
The Health and Social Impact of Growing Up With Adverse Childhood Experiences; Dr. Vincent Filleti and Dr. David Anda