Addressing adverse childhood experiences
Can traumatic events experienced in childhood affect your health as an adult? Absolutely, according to the research on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
"The ACEs research shows that when bad experiences happen to people as children that are physically and emotionally harmful (i.e. abuse, neglect, household dysfunction), there is a strong connection to their health and well-being later in life," explains Lacie Ketelhut, Gundersen Health System trauma informed care community coordinator.
ACEs are common, as research estimates that nearly two-thirds of the population has experienced at least one. As ACE occurrences increase, so does the risk for negative health outcomes later in life, including heart disease, cancer, depression, substance abuse and even early death. In response, Gundersen Health System helped establish a collaborative community effort committed to combating the impacts of ACEs and building a resilient and trauma-informed community.
All staff will be educated by the end of the year and have already started, while departments are incorporating trauma-informed care (TIC) into their workflows. TIC begins with a perspective shift, moving from "What’s wrong with you?" to "What happened to you?"
Support from the health system, the community and loved ones can reduce the risk for health issues later in life. Healthy relationships are one of the strongest action steps for building resilience, or the ability to bounce back, to overcome trauma.
"We will see healthcare change with a focus on ACEs, transforming our approach to one that is consistent with trauma-informed care," adds David Gerhard, MD, Pediatrics.
"TIC will improve our ability to be effective caregivers by encouraging us to focus on the root causes of the problems we are seeing in our patients and families."
If you have questions or concerns about the role that trauma has played in your life or that of a loved one, talk with your healthcare provider.