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The Adverse Childhood Experience Study

June 30, 2010

For almost a decade I have been looking for the reasons why many of our tribal members experience negative health and behavioral consequences. After my father passed away over 8 years ago, about 4 months after my younger sister passed away, I explored the world of Fatherhood and the impact an absent father has on his children. Through voracious reading, reviewing the advocacy work done by the “National Fatherhood Initiative,” reading some of the research conducted through the “Fragile Families and Childhood Wellbeing Study” conducted by my alma mater, Princeton University, mentorship by my friend Charles Stuart, formerly with the National Fatherhood Initiative and now President of the “National Incarcerated Parents and Families Network,” I began to understand how much children were negatively impacted by absent fathers. Chugachmiut started a Fatherhood program to try to encourage responsible fathers to be more involved in the lives of their children. I have maintained my interest ever since then (2003).

When a colleague introduced me to the “Adverse Childhood Experience Study” (ACES) in 2009, I read some introductory material and immediately became convinced that the findings might well serve as a unifying theory behind which a holistic health care program could be built around. As my leaning process involves substantial immersion, I began researching the topic extensively. I read articles, PowerPoints, blogs and websites about the impact of ACES on individuals. Chugachmiut purchased and staff viewed the videos distributed by Cavalcade Productions on psychological trauma. We also watched a YouTube presentation by Dr. Gabor Mate, staff physician at the Portland Hotel and author of “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction.”

My research led me to what I believe is a root cause for many of the risky behaviors we use to help us deal with the childhood traumas inflicted on us many decades earlier. The ACES Study shows such a direct correlation between the number of childhood experiences that inflict trauma and negative outcomes that the results are difficult to question. Please take a look at the results of the study. In Alaska, Native people experience a high rate of successful suicide attempts, and even more unsuccessful attempts. The ACES showed that patients in the population studied who had 4 or more ACE’s were 1620% more likely to attempt suicide during their life. This is an incredible finding.

In future blogs, I will talk about how the results of the ACES led us to question the way we have been providing health care.

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