New report on California ACEs prevalence shines light on racism and disparities

November 03, 2020
Area(s) of Interest: Diversity and Inclusion Public Health 

Racism is among the root causes of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), according to a newly released report on the prevalence of ACEs in California.

“Children of color are disproportionately impacted by ACEs due to stressful environments, socio-economic inequalities, and lack of systemic support and resources for families of color,” the report said. Released by the Essentials for Childhood Initiative, the report reflects state data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System between 2011 and 2017.

“Adverse childhood experiences” is a term that comes from the landmark Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/ Kaiser Permanente ACE Study of more than 17,000 adults. It linked ACEs to the adult onset of many chronic diseases, mental illness, violence and becoming a victim of violence.

The ACE study also found that ACEs are remarkably common — most people have at least one. People who have four or more different types of ACEs — about 12% of the population — have a 1200% higher risk of attempting suicide and a 700% higher risk of becoming an alcoholic, compared with people who have no ACEs.

Black or Hispanic Californians were more likely to report 4 or more ACEs than state residents who identified as White or “other.” Overall, 16% of the state’s residents reported an ACE score of 4 or more, and 62 % of all Californians had at least one ACE.

Compared to Californians who reported an ACE score of 0, residents who reported 4 or more ACEs were 3.5 times as likely to report mental distress, twice as likely to report poor health, and 3 times as likely to report not feeling well in the 14 days prior to answering the survey, according to the report.

You can read the full report here.

ACEs Aware

In January 2020, the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), in partnership with the California Office of the Surgeon General, created ACES Aware, a first-in-the-nation statewide effort to screen patients for trauma and the increased likelihood of associated health conditions due to toxic stress and ACEs.

The ACEs Aware initiative has been an integral part of the Medi-Cal program’s response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, helping providers identify, treat and prevent the secondary health effects associated with stress caused by the pandemic.

Since its launch, the ACEs Aware initiative has worked to equip providers with the knowledge, tools, and resources they need to effectively incorporate ACE screening into patient care. Effective January 1, 2020, qualified Medi-Cal providers who complete the certified “Becoming ACEs Aware in California” training and attest to completion can receive Medi-Cal payment for screening children and adults for ACEs.



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