Resilience and ACES

First 5 Humboldt understands the science of prevention. For children to have the best chance of growing into happy, healthy adults who contribute to their communities, they must have a healthy beginning, with adults who understand and care about them. ACES and resilience science inform our work on behalf of children and families.

ACES Study Changes Understanding of Health

Adverse childhood experiences lead to impairment, adoption of risky behaviors, disease and early death.

Twenty years ago, researchers released a study which fundamentally changed the way we understand disease and public health. They questioned almost 10,000 adults about their Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) and compared that data to the health outcomes of those who responded. They found that those with more ACES had significantly increased likelihood of experiencing mental illness, substance use disorder, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, as well as many other less than desirable health and well-being outcomes. We know know that the toxic stress experienced by children leads to changes in a child’s development–helping them to adapt to the stressful environment, but also turning on their stress response system in ways that can lead to long term negative health outcomes.

ACES Too High in Humboldt

According to the report, “Hidden Crisis: Findings on Adverse Childhood Experiences in California,”┬áby the California Center on Youth Wellness, Humboldt and Mendocino Counties have the highest percentage of residents with 4 or more ACES. Statistically, 4 or more ACES are correlated with more dramatic negative health outcomes. For example, if you have 4 or more ACES, you are:

5X more likely to suffer from depression

12X more likely to attempt suicide

10X more likely to use injection drugs

7X more likely to suffer from alcoholism

2.4X more likely to have a stroke

More likely to have cancer, diabetes, ischemic heart disease, asthma, kidney disease, and more likely to be unemployed.

75% of Humboldt and Mendocino County residents have one or more ACES.

30.8% have 4 or more.

What Can we do about ACES?

We believe that there are two community-level responses that are needed.

Focus on prevention

Our community, our services and our policymakers need to invest in prevention. While our services Must continue to provide intervention for domestic violence, child abuse and neglect and treatment for mental illness and substance use disorder, we must look at services that have been shown to PREVENT child abuse and neglect. Child abuse and neglect account for 5 out of the 10 ACES indicators. Family strengthening strategies, home visiting, parent education, and family support services have all been linked to prevention of child abuse and neglect.

Promotion of Resilience

Every person in Humboldt County needs to understand what ACES are and how they can make a difference. Resilience science offers a pathway for supporting children who experience toxic stress.

Caring adults can be the buffers who can help make toxic stress tolerable and less likely to result in lifelong negative outcomes.

As a community we need to all understand how we can make a difference. It will take all of us working together to change this cycle. You can be the one to make a difference. All of us together can create a healthy future for our children.