State ACEs Action

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New Iowa ACEs Report released today


A new report from the Central Iowa ACEs 360 Coalition shows most Iowa adults have experienced childhood trauma, an indicator of higher rates of chronic diseases, mental illness, violence, risky behaviors, and reduced life expectancy among adults. The 2016 ACEs report, Beyond ACEs: Building Hope & Resiliency in Iowa, examines three years of data collected among adult Iowans measuring eight types of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), defined as physical, sexual and emotional abuse, and household difficulties of parental substance abuse, mental illness, incarceration, divorce and domestic violence. The report reveals how ACEs impact Iowans across the state. It also showcases emerging opportunities to respond to trauma.

“Our research shows that 56 percent of Iowa adults report at least one adverse childhood experience. About 15 percent of Iowa adults experienced four or more types of childhood trauma, which is a significant level of stress during early development,” said Lisa Cushatt, Central Iowa ACEs Coalition manager. “Adults who have experienced four or more ACEs are 2.2 times more likely to have a heart attack, 3.3 times more likely to smoke, and 6 times more likely to have been diagnosed with depression than adults who report no adverse childhood experiences.”

The report features emerging community response strategies to build resiliency within health care, social work, business and education sectors. Four personal stories highlight the impact of building caring connections to break the cycle of ACEs within Iowa communities.

“Iowa’s ACEs research points to the root cause of many health and social issues and instills a need to respond across all sectors,” said Suzanne Mineck, president of Mid-Iowa Health Foundation. “All of us can build resiliency within our networks to help those who have experienced trauma heal and to give children the best possible start. We can start by recognizing the impact trauma has on all of us and building caring connections with others.”

The report identifies pockets of high ACEs in Iowa’s major cities and regional centers, including Des Moines, Council Bluffs, Creston and Ottumwa. It also includes a closer look at how childhood neglect is linked to ACEs and how ACEs increase the risk of mental health challenges. Those with four or more ACEs are 2.5 times more likely to report activity limitations due to physical, mental and emotional problems, and seven times more likely to report restlessness within the past 30 days than those reporting no ACEs.

Further analysis of the Iowa Youth Survey results suggest that Iowa’s youth are experiencing stress at a level similar to the outcomes in the adult ACEs data. Of 16 questions related to drinking, drug use, having thoughts of suicide, having a happy home and feeling connected to the community, about 25 percent of Iowa youth reported at least three risk factors and eight percent had six-plus risk factors.

“The Iowa ACEs data helps us better understand the long-term impact of childhood trauma,” said Liz Cox, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Iowa. “Research also shows that meaningful, caring connections mitigate the impact of childhood trauma and reduce the risk for poor physical and mental health outcomes in life. Safe, nurturing environments – at home, at school, and at work – strengthen a community, build resilience, and improve well-being among children and adults.”

The coalition worked with several partners to produce the latest report. The State of Iowa approved funding to collect ACEs data, Mid-Iowa Health Foundation funded the data analysis and report development, and United Way of Central Iowa has funded the coalition’s coordination and marketing efforts. Data was gathered through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and the Iowa Department of Public Health and Child and Family Policy Center completed data analysis. Prevent Child Abuse Iowa wrote the report.

Read the full report at

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