SAFE in Hunterdon is working to mobilize the community around the collaborative research of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente called the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. This study captured the physical exams and information of more than 17,000 Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) members around three specific adverse childhood experiences related to one of three categories: abuse (physical, sexual, emotional) neglect (physical, emotional) or family dysfunction (incarceration, divorce, exposure to domestic violence, or growing up with a family member affected by mental illness or substance abuse).

Through a series of ten (10) questions they were able to assess how many participants had been exposed to ACEs and follow the health outcomes associated with each participant. Through this research they found that many people experience at least one ACE. Many people have experienced multiple ACEs; and the more ACEs a person is exposed to, the greater their risk for negative outcomes related to behavior, as well as physical and mental health. In fact, what has since been found is that stressors such as ACEs literally change the way our brains and bodies develop, a factor that influences our health across the lifespan.

So why mobilize around ACEs?

The knowledge we have gained from the study of adverse childhood experiences and their impact on stress-related health outcomes helps us to work toward protective factors and the promotion of resiliency which can prevent adverse childhood experiences, impact the way we heal from them and, as a result, prevent the onset of negative socio-cultural and health consequences associated with these experiences.

A community working to create a system that is trauma-informed looks at an individual/family and says, “What happened to you?” instead of “What’s wrong with you?” When everyone from human service agencies to medical professionals understand how to look for risk factors and warning signs, our community can begin to address the impact of trauma on individuals and families. We can work together to address the impact of adverse childhood experiences through trauma-informed screening procedures, community and professional education, as well as the development of appropriate interventions.

How do I get involved?

If you are interested in becoming a community partner or learning more about our programming around ACEs, please reach out to SAFE in Hunterdon for more information.