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A Better Path to Good Health and Well-Being Starts with an ACEs Screening

Date: 03/02/21

The truth about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) is that more children face abuse, neglect and household challenges than you may think. According to ACEs Aware, data shows that 62% of California residents have experienced at least one ACE and 16% have experienced four or more ACEs. This is based off 2011-2017 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data from a random-digit-dialed telephone survey.

In the last few months, Health Net has been working to build awareness in regard to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). We've also focused on how children are empowered to live more peacefully and productively and happily because they have avoided trauma when given early intervention. A major way that this early intervention takes place is through an ACEs screening with your doctor.

The Department of Health Care Services approved specific tools to be used and questions to be asked for pediatric and adult ACE screenings. These tools have been made available to Health Net providers throughout California. Taking part in these screenings can:

  • Improve your providers efficacy and efficiency of health care
  • Better support you and your family's health and well-being
  • Reduce long-term health costs

The screening results in an ACE score. The higher your score, the higher your risk for later health problems. But keep in mind that the score is meant as guidance. It's not a full blown future predictor of health. There are plenty of other factors like smoking and excessive drinking that can have major influences on your health. If you're struggling with either of these, please be sure to talk to your doctor and take advantage of myStrength.

If a child happens to have a high ACE score, it allows time for interventions to build resilience. In this case, caregivers could take advantage of resources that Health Net offers to seek assistance. Your family doctor may also recommend resources. Remember, that it only takes one caring, safe relationship early in a child's life to give them a good chance at growing up healthy.

ACEs can Increase your Health Risks

According to the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, the higher your score, the higher your risk for later health problems.

Image of adverse health outcome icons

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Credit: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For instance, ACEs is often associated with a variety of adverse health outcomes. For example:

  • Behavioral Health Outcomes
    • Lack of physical activity
    • Smoking
    • Alcoholism
    • Drug use
    • Missed work
  • Physical & Mental Health
    • Severe obesity
    • Diabetes
    • Depression
    • Suicide attempts
    • STDs
    • Heart Disease
    • Cancer
    • Stroke
    • COPD
    • Broken bones

For children and adolescents (ages 0-19), providers use the Pediatric ACEs Screening and Related Life-events Screener, also referred to as PEARLS. This screener was developed by the Bay Area Consortium on Toxic Stress and Health (BARC). This consortium is a partnership between the Center for Youth Wellness, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland.

The best practice is for both the adolescent and the caregiver to each complete the tool. Keep in mind that your child's living experience may differ from how you perceive their experience. So the next time your family doctor discusses ACEs with you, don't hesitate to take part in a screening. If you are nervous about answering the questions, be sure to ask your provider about the de-identified screening, which will not reveal any details.

To learn more about ACEs and prevention strategies, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) information page.

Last Updated: 07/14/2021