ACEs are a leading determinant of public health problems

“To my mind, it’s the most important opportunity for the prevention of health and social problems and disease and disability that has ever been seen.” — Dr. Robert Anda, co-founder of the original ACE study, and Senior Consultant for the CDC

“The ACE Study findings suggest that certain experiences are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death as well as poor quality of life in the United States. It is critical to understand how some of the worst health and social problems in our nation can arise as a consequence of adverse childhood experiences.” – CDC

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ACEs are common

“Data collected from more than 17,000 patients clearly showed that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), were common; that they had a profound negative effect on health and well-being; and were a prime determinant of the past, current and future health behaviors, social problems, disease incidence, and early death in the study population.” — Excerpt from biography of Dr. Robert Anda, co-founder of the original ACE report.

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Toxic stress affects the development of brain architecture.

Toxic stress is bad for brain development. If a child is exposed to serious, ongoing hardships like abuse and neglect, and he has no other caregiver in his life to provide support, the basic structures of his developing brain might be damaged.

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ACEs are not the only kind of toxic stress

“What the science is telling us now is how experience gets into the brain as it’s developing its basic architecture and how it gets into the cardiovascular system and the immune system,” explains Jack P. Shonkoff, director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, where the term toxic stress was coined.

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Not all adversity is toxic

Learning how to cope with adversity is an important part of healthy child development. When we are threatened, our bodies prepare us to respond by increasing our heart rate, blood pressure, and stress hormones, such as cortisol. When a young child’s stress response systems are activated within an environment of supportive relationships with adults, these physiological effects are buffered and brought back down to baseline. The result is the development of healthy stress response systems. However, if the stress response is extreme and long-lasting, and buffering relationships are unavailable to the child, the result can be damaged, weakened systems and brain architecture, with lifelong repercussions.

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Wisconsin-specific ACE data is available

As part of the 2010 Wisconsin Behavioral Risk Factor Survey (BRFS), more than 4,000 randomly selected Wisconsin adults were asked about adverse experiences they may have had prior to age 18. The Wisconsin ACE report highlights the ACE-related findings from the 2010 BRFS, as well as policy recommendations for addressing ACEs in Wisconsin.

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