Rise Up, Change Your Life & Reform Health Care: Building Resilience Against the Sequela of Adverse Childhood Experiences
BACKGROUND: A reformed approach to healthcare tackles health at its roots. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in those exposed to them may contribute significantly to the root causes of many diseases of lifestyle. ACEs are traumatic experiences, such as physical and emotional abuse and exposure to risky family environments. In 1998, a ground-breaking study found that nearly 70% of Americans experience at least one ACE in their lifetime, and graded exposure is associated with the presence of mental health disorders, heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases. Over the past 20 years, a robust body of evidence has demonstrated further short and long-term negative health outcomes in both children (including behavioral and school difficulties) and adults (poor coping, mental and physical illness), with associated epigenetic underpinnings. Throughout life, ACEs are linked with increased poor health behaviors including substance use, smoking, risky sexual activity, and sedentary lifestyle. Building resilience–the capacity to adapt in healthy ways to traumatic experiences—through lifestyle modification offers the potential to combat the negative health effects associated with ACEs. Emerging research has shed light on cultivating resilience through the promotion of psychological skills (emotional intelligence, coping strategies, and stress reduction), nurturing supportive relationships, and fostering healthy lifestyle choices. The first and arguably most important step to building resilience, however, is awareness. Being mindful of one’s own experiences, the impact of ACEs, and the prevalence of ACEs in society, will help combat the root cause of chronic disease bringing our patients, our world, and ourselves to our highest potential. This talk aims to cultivate that awareness.
AIMS: This talk has three aims. The first aim is to discuss the effects and hypothesized pathophysiological underpinnings of traumatic experiences in childhood on health and well-being throughout life. The second aim is to present ways we can promote resilience in our daily lives and patient encounters. The third aim is to demonstrate how advocacy for the reduction of ACEs and promotion of resilient, trauma-informed environments are fundamental to “Real Health Care Reform”.
Specifically, tools for individuals and clinicians will be shared including the Sesame Street in Communities Toolbox (e.g., expressing feelings, breathing exercises, visualization), five steps to self-hypnosis, and educator toolkits and positive parenting courses (such as Generation Mindful). Attendees will also be introduced to the concept of community and societal resilience and shown how to create “trauma-informed” and safer spaces for youth and families. General approaches to local and national advocacy in the fight against ACEs will be presented.
TALK DESCRIPTION: Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which nearly 70% of Americans across all sectors have experienced, are associated with risky health behaviors and increased morbidity and mortality into adulthood. Building resilience—the capacity to adapt in healthy ways to traumatic experiences—can facilitate individuals leading healthier lifestyles. The prevention of ACEs, at both local community and national levels, would create a preventive, and necessary, approach to “Real Health Care Reform” and a healthier, more resilient nation. Learn how your awareness of ACEs is the first, most important step in achieving personal, client and societal resilience and sustainable lifestyle change!
LEARNING OBJECTIVES: Upon completion, participants will be able to: (1) Define the concepts of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), toxic stress, and trauma; (2) Understand the impact of ACEs on health; (3) Define resilience (self and societal), (4) Take away practices that can build resilience, (5) Share resources for individual and clinical practice; (6) Outline ideas for advocating for healthcare reform through the reduction of ACEs.