Minnesota ACE survey finds more than half of state experienced one or more types of childhood adversity

Minnesota released the findings of a state-wide ACE survey today.  The results echo the CDC’s groundbreaking ACE Study. A telephone survey of 13,520 people in 2011 revealed that 55% had one or more types of adverse childhood experiences and, of those, more than half had experienced at least two or more.

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Participants in the survey were asked whether they had experienced one or more of the following nine types of adversity: loss of a parent through separation or divore, watching a mother being abused, a family member in prison, a household member who’s an alcoholic or addicted to some other drug, a household member who’s diagnosed with depression or other mental illness; verbal, sexual and/or physical abuse.

The most common were:

  • Verbal abuse — 28 percent
  • Alcoholic or substance-abusing parent — 24 percent
  • Mental illness  – 17 percent
  • Physical abuse — 16 percent

According to a media release issued by the Minnesota Department of Health:

Minnesota’s results are consistent with those found by the initial ACE study and in other states. First, ACEs are common; second, ACEs frequently occur together, and third, higher ACE scores put a person more at risk for poorer health and well-being outcomes as an adult. For example, Minnesotans with more ACEs were more likely to rate their health as fair or poor, to have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, to report smoking and chronic drinking, to have been diagnosed with asthma, and to be obese. In

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What happened to “Charlie” started in his mother’s womb

Beginbeforebirth.org was put together by researchers from the Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology at Imperial College London. It posted the latest research on how a mother’s stress, caused by everything from domestic violence to natural disaster, affects what happens to the fetus developing in her womb.

The organization produced a series of games and videos, including Charlie’s Story, that look at a mother’s stress, how genes can be turned on and off depending on what’s happening in the mother’s social environment, and what the long-term consequences can be.

The site has a good section on epigenetics. You think the DNA you’re born with is your blueprint for life? Not quite. Your genes can be turned on and off, sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently by what’s happening in your relationships. Getting a lot of verbal abuse and physical abuse from mom or dad? That’s setting off a flood of toxic stress hormones that are changing your DNA. And if the abuse is severe enough, you can pass the changes on to your children.

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Video: End It Now — Understanding and Preventing Child Abuse

Last month, Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital released an outstanding, optimistic, and solution-oriented video about child abuse, which they define as physical, sexual, verbal abuse and domestic violence.

What makes the video so strong are the stories told by three very brave people:

  • Amanda Marsh, who was sexually abused by her stepfather from the time she was 13 to 17 years old. She and her sister eventually reported him, and he is now in prison.
  • Crystal Risely, physically and sexually abused by her physician father from infancy until she was 22 years old, molested by a teacher when she was 12, and molested by a principal when she was 16.
  • One man who was physically abused by his father from infancy until he was 16 years old. It ended when he left home. In the video, he prefers to remain anonymous.

Dr. Clare Sheridan-Matney, director of the division of

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What prisons, sugar and health care costs have in common (besides some cool infographics)

We know that people use many different substances and activities to cope with the toxic stress produced by suffering adverse childhood experiences. Those substances and activities include, but are not limited to, methamphetamine (which was once prescribed as a legal antidepressant in the U.S.), alcohol, tobacco, food (especially fats and sugars), sex, thrill sports, exercise and even working too much.

By preventing childhood trauma and by changing our systems — such as education and health — to avoid traumatizing already traumatized people, we’d save billions of dollars. Billions. Never mind the increase in the number of healthier, happier people in the world.

Take prisons. Face the Facts USA, a nonpartisan information resource from the Center for Innovation at The George Washington University, a did a slide show called “U.S. is the World’s Imprisonment Capital“. Some pertinent facts:

It costs about $60 billion a year to keep state and federal prisoners behind bars. States shoulder the biggest share, 85 percent or $51 billion. Federal prison costs are 15 percent or close to $9 billion.

Among federal inmates in 2010: about half (51 percent) were serving time for drug offenses, 35 percent for violations of “public order” offenses like weapons charges or immigration law violations, and less than 10 percent each for violent and property offenses.

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The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study — the largest, most important public health study you never heard of — began in an obesity clinic

Mentions of the ACE Study – the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study — have shown up in the New York Times, This American Life, and Salon.com recently. In the last year, it’s become a buzzword in social services, public health, education, juvenile justice, mental health, pediatrics, criminal justice and even business. Many people say that just as everyone should be aware of her or his cholesterol score, so should everyone know her or his ACE score. But what is this study? And why is it so important to, well, almost everyone in 2012, the same way polio became important to almost everyone in the 1950s? Here’s the backstory.

The ACE Study – probably the most important public health study you never heard of – had its origins in an obesity clinic on a quiet street in San Diego.

It was 1985, and Dr. Vincent Felitti was mystified. The physician, chief of Kaiser Permanente’s revolutionary Department of Preventive Medicine in San Diego, CA, couldn’t figure out why, each year for the last five

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David Brooks tells only part of the story; on Salon (and The Fix), making erroneous assumptions about parents

It’s terrific to see the CDC’s ACE Study, neurobiological research on children’s brains, and trauma-informed practices featured on Salon (Is Your Kid an Addict?) and by David Brooks in his column, The Psych Approach. Just terrific. The more information out there, the better.

Brooks uses Paul Tough’s book, How Children Succeed, to discuss the “psychologizing of domestic policy”. What he means by that is moving from “the material and bureaucratic things that correlate to school failure” (e.g. poverty, school class size) to “the

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Changing our systems from punishment, shame and blame to compassionate, solution-oriented problem-solving

Many people have heard about the school-to-prison pipeline — how harsh school discipline policies funnel kids into the criminal justice system. Last month, the Children’s Defense Fund  issued its 2012 report on the State of America’s Children, whose data show how black children move through the Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline at higher rates than any other group. That’s just part of the story.

Diana Auborg Miller, program officer at the Stoneleigh Foundation, reviewed the report on the Huffington Post and on the Stoneleigh Foundation blog, pointing out that if black children escape the

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Adverse childhood experiences affect unemployment; Maté: childhood trauma is universal template for addiction; “Runaway Girl” — from street life to MBA

Most of the talk about the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study) focuses on the link between ACEs and adult onset of chronic disease; depression, suicide and other mental health issues; violence and being a victim of violence. There’s been less attention on the finding that the higher a person’s ACE score, the increased risk of absenteeism from work, serious financial problems and serious job problems. Now there’s evidence that ACEs affect unemployment, too.

When researchers from the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion examined the data from ACE surveys in five states, which included 17,469 people between the ages of 18 and 64, they found that the 2009 unemployment rate of men and women was “significantly higher among those who reported having had any ACEs than among those who reported no ACEs”, according to the study published in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. Two-thirds of the people in the study had at least one ACEs; 15.1 % of men and 19.3 % of women reported having had four or more ACEs.

Some folks have already taken this information to heart.

When Washington State did its own ACE survey in 2009, it found a “stunning fact”, says Laura Porter, director of ACE partnerships in the state’s Department of Social and Health Service: The survey revealed that “52% of functional disability is attributable to ACES.” Because of how much ACEs contribute to the list of barriers to employment, there’s now a push to integrate ACE concepts into the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, which helps people with disabilities find work. Many of the state’s communities have already integrated ACE concepts into public health, schools and juvenile justice.

On a national level, ReadyNation, formerly the Partnership for America’s Economic Success, has

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The effects of adverse childhood experiences touch every part of us

Dr. David McCollum was for years an emergency room physician and  is one of the co-founders of the Academy on Violence & Abuse, an organization aimed at health professionals. It provides education and research on the effects of violence and abuse on people’s health.

Early on in his work, McCollum became aware of the connection between childhood trauma and health problems. He integrated his awareness into his emergency room practice by asking questions when he thought patients’ health problems might be related to events that had happened in their past. I’ll post some of those stories later. The outcomes were very surprising, including a woman who came to the ER with chronic pelvic pain. After she answered “All three” when McCollum asked her if she’d been verbally, physically or sexually abused, and a discussion ensued at how it could affect her current health, her pain dissipated.

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