CONWAY — The health risks of everything from smoking, alcohol and drug use to diabetes, obesity and heart disease to depression and suicide are covered in the news.
Lesser known is the evidence that adverse childhood experiences, also called ACEs, have a profound impact on a person’s lifetime risk of developing chronic health conditions.
Building Resilience MWV, a coalition of community leaders and professionals, has formed to raise awareness about ACEs and to promote resilience in individuals, families and communities across the greater Mount Washington Valley.
What are adverse childhood experiences? In the late 1990s the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study undertook one of the largest investigations of childhood abuse, neglect and household challenges.
The study found that the more adverse childhood experiences a person had in their history, the greater their risk for various negative health outcomes.
The 10 experiences measured included physical, sexual and verbal abuse; physical and emotional neglect; a family member with depression or other mental illness; a family member misuse of alcohol or other substance; a family member in prison; witnessing a mother being abused; losing a parent to separation, divorce or other reason.
Individuals with a history of multiple ACEs were more likely to experience health risks including mental illness, unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, diabetes, cancer, addiction, lower education and lower income.
The study did not suggest a cause and effect relationship, but rather a connection between the number of ACEs and risk for negative health conditions.
According to the CDC, the major findings included that “ACEs are common across all populations. Almost two-thirds of study participants reported at least one ACE, and more than one in five reported three or more ACEs.”
Community efforts that strengthen supports for families, promote positive parenting and early childhood education, and work to prevent abuse and neglect all can make a difference.
Building Resilience MWV works to address ACEs in the Mount Washington Valley. This group is a partnership between Memorial Hospital, SAU 9, Starting Point, Children Unlimited, Carroll County Coalition for Public Health, the office of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, MWV Supports Recovery Coalition, Jackson Police Department, MWV Chamber of Commerce, Northern Human Servives and recently retired principal Brian Hastings.
According to Heather Phillips of Memorial Hospital: “We are a network for community members, professionals and leaders collaborating in a movement to prevent the impact of adverse childhood experiences, heal from trauma, and build resilience in our community. We want to transform our region into one of hope, healing and resilience for all.”
On May 12, the group hosted the "Students: Ask Your Doctor" Facebook Live student Q&A event with local pediatricians Wenda Saunders of Memorial Hospital and Ross Emery and Rich Laracy from Saco River Medical Group.
In the past year, the group hosted a screening of the film "Resilience: The Biology of Stress & The Science of Hope" and hosted a community training to address ACEs and Foster Resilience in Early Childhood.
Caleb Gilbert of Carroll County Coalition for Public Health said: “The group aims to raise awareness and educate the community about ACEs and promote local efforts that build community resilience.”
Future plans include more "Ask the Expert" series Facebook Live community events on the topics of mental health in the time of COVID-19 and more.
The next Facebook Live event on Youth Mental Health will be on Thursday, May 28, at 5 p.m.
For more information about Building Resilience MWV, contact Heather Phillips at email@example.com or follow on Facebook @BuildingResilienceMWV.