Did you know that if you score four or more ACEs you are three times more likely to develop heart or respiratory disease compared to someone who scored none? Before we attended the ACEs Conference, we didn’t know that. In fact, we didn’t know very much about ACEs at all.
So, what are ACEs?
ACEs stand for Adverse Childhood Experiences and is a 10-item scale about potential adversities from childhood that may influence an individual later in life. The issue is becoming more well known within the literature due to the links between these experiences and poorer health across the life-span including lower life expectancy over all (Bellis et al, 2017; Brown et al, 2009). As the below graphic showcases around 64% of people have experienced at least one ACE. However, it is not all doom and gloom as the first step to dealing with a problem is understanding it. Whilst having a high number of ACEs is associated with higher risk of health conditions, it is still just a risk and there are countermeasures which will be discussed later.
The ACEs Conference
The conference ACES conference was hosted by the Centre of Health and Development (CHAD) in partnership with Stoke-on-Trent City Council and the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner Staffordshire. This conference invited some key local stakeholders and organisations involved in tackling ACEs and promoting trauma-informed practise. Each stakeholder to present how they work within ACEs and also allowed CHAD to share their initial findings from the evaluation of the asking about ACEs project to the stakeholders. Many stakeholders attended the event with organisations such as Young People Violence Advisors (YPVA), Youth Offending and Specialist Senior Education Psychologists for Children in Care (SSEPCC).
We volunteered to steward the conference, and these are our take away thoughts and observations. One of the prevailing themes presented during the conference was ‘looking forward’ and the shift in mentality from dealing with the aftermath of these adverse experiences to addressing the root cause. This would involve working with individuals whilst they are still pre-adolescence. During the event it was also presented by the stakeholder/ practitioner that there was an importance of working with the children involved as it should be a collaborative effort, which would be more effective compared to the support worker planning for the child. The question ‘Who are we asking?’ drew attention to the absence of work that is informed by young people or developed with them as experts. As mentioned earlier there are countermeasures to ACEs; a key one being a strong support network. Finally, to reinforce the idea that this is not all doom and gloom as we claimed earlier – to paraphrase ‘the effects of ACEs are predictive and if it is predictive it can be prevented’.
This leads nicely into CHAD’s involvement. CHAD conducted an evaluation of the ‘Asking about ACEs’ pilot. The CHAD team interviewed both service users and organisations (Youth Offending and GLOW) where the ‘Asking about ACE’s’ pilot was implemented. As mentioned, ‘if it is predictive it can be prevented’ and as the evaluation found the earlier these questions about ACEs are asked the better because whilst the questions were seen as a useful tool by practitioners, service users viewed the support that followed the questions as paramount.
Aman Mankoo and Elliott Phillips are volunteers with the Centre for Health and Development and have both recently completed the MSc Applied Research at Staffordshire university. Keep an eye out for their blogs over the coming months.