Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, are stressful, traumatic events experienced in childhood or adolescence. Studies have found a significant association between ACEs and chronic health conditions, risky behaviors and negative health outcomes, and ACEs contribute to a higher cost of health care across a person's lifespan. They are widespread among Michigan adults.
Fighting back against childhood trauma could result in significant health care cost savings for Michigan and spare incalculable suffering.
Now, a team from Central Michigan University is adding an arsenal of information to the battle with an educational podcast series.
"Responding to ACEs: Resources for Resilience" is the six-part podcast series featuring insights into the science of trauma and resilience. The series was funded by a collaborative grant between the College of the Arts and Media and the College of Medicine. It was supported by the Interdisciplinary Center for Community Health and Wellness, a partnership of five CMU colleges that collaborates with community partners for research and education about health and wellness in Michigan and beyond.
Scientific studies have found that ACEs shape bodies and brains for a lifetime. The higher a child's ACE score — a tally of occurrences such as child abuse and parental divorce — the more likely the child will struggle in school and grow to have lifelong health effects.
A child with an ACE score of four or more is 32 times more likely to have issues in school, and seven of the 10 leading causes of death correlate to high ACE scores.
"ACEs are really one of the critical health issues in Michigan," said Dr. Judy Blebea, associate dean for faculty development and faculty affairs in the College of Medicine and co-principal investigator for the grant. "Many health issues have their origins in childhood trauma, and effectively addressing ACEs can reduce the impact and severity of these chronic health conditions for both children and adults."
Heather Polinsky, chair of the School of Broadcast and Cinematic Arts and co-principal investigator, helped produce the series, choosing to record it as a podcast for flexibility and portability. It features four master trainers for the Michigan ACE Initiative and covers therapies and resources.
"It was really important for us to go from 'what are ACEs' to 'what do we do about them?'" Polinsky said.
Alison Arnold, director of the Interdisciplinary Center, said the project will benefit CMU students, medical and other professionals who work with children, and the state of Michigan.
"We are trying to move this information out all along the pipeline of professionals," she said.
The six podcast episodes are available for free continuing medical education credit through the College of Medicine's CME Online page. They also are publicly available for no CME credit.
Blebea said the podcasts will be included in some College of Medicine courses. In addition, they are available for CME credit to more than 1,000 CMU community educators — physicians throughout Michigan who have agreed to help train CMU medical students.
"They really appreciate that we provide them CME at no charge," she said.
The podcast team plans follow-up surveys to find out how listeners use the information to promote the health and well-being of their patients and communities.