Health Report: Alaskan study for strengthening households to prevent adverse childhood experiences

Published: Nov. 17, 2020 at 5:01 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Dr. Jared Parrish, senior maternal child health epidemiologist in the Alaska Division of Public Health spoke with us about his work in a recent study published with data from Alaska in the American Academy of Pediatrics official journal. This study documented a strong relationship between pre-birth challenges mothers and families experience and the future accumulation of adverse childhood experiences in their children

The current study used several surveys: one conducted shortly after pregnancy, a three-year follow-up survey, and other already-collected data to study Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) scores among Alaskan 3-year-olds.

“Children experiencing a lot of household challenges have an elevated ACE score and the research shows that kids with higher ACE scores are more likely to have a lot of negative health outcomes, or negative social outcomes -- and those are things that really cause a lot of problems in society and to those individuals," said Parrish

According to lead author Danielle Rittman, the study found that if a mother reported experiencing four or more pre-birth household challenges during approximately 12 months before birth, the child was 4.1 times as likely to have a higher average ACE scores by age 3, compared to those reporting zero household challenges.

“Families that are stressed or are experiencing a lot of challenges are likely to remain in stress, and when you add a new child to that environment it is also a stressful unit. It can result in abuse and neglect. Again, the whole point from a public health perspective is not at all to place blame, it’s to identify where we can provide support," said Parrish

A recent study suggests that by preventing ACEs, we could reduce heart disease by 13% and depression by nearly 44% in the United States, along with many other adverse health conditions.

“If we can reduce the stressful environment that challenges... that impacts a parent’s ability to be effective, then we actually can potentially reduce the involvement of reactionary systems that result in more trauma," said Parrish

Factors that have been proven effective at protecting against and reducing the impact of ACEs include strong social supports, parenting competencies and efficacy, self-regulation, stable/adequate living environment, and positive community.

Parrish recommends a particular resource: “We have a variety of resources across the state and one that I highly recommend you engage in is [through] child welfare academy at UA (University of Alaska)... a curriculum called Strengthening Families.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified numerous strategies to prevent ACEs. For more information visit the CDC website.

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