Authentic conversations about adverse childhood experiences

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) – defined as abuse, neglect and family/household challenges experienced during the first 18 years of life — are not evenly distributed among populations. Members of minority groups and children who grow up in poverty have more of them. ACEs can cast long shadows over lives and affect education, health, income and more. New maps show, for example, the areas of the U.S. in which children living in poverty are more, or less, likely to break out of poverty as adults, based on the specific neighborhoods in which they grow up.

Our National Health Equity Research Webcast last Friday (see video) focused on this topic, and some of the stories and situations we learned about were searing. One participant, who had been a student here 30 years ago, said her cohort never had conversations then like the one we had Friday. Having these discussions and trying to figure out how to ensure that all children can achieve their potential is a good thing. Today, in this country, a country I love, our policies don’t reflect the value of caring for children. Our immigration policies, what’s happening to public education and so many other problems point to a callousness that is antithetical to the values of public health.

Engaging on this topic with 750 participants – in our auditorium and online, from across the U.S. and beyond – confirmed that current national policies do not represent the best of our young people, nor the aspirations of many public health and education professionals.

That’s reason for hope.

The views expressed in this blog are Barbara Rimer’s alone and do not represent the views and policies of The University of North Carolina or the Gillings School.

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