CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Nearly one in four people that responded to an informal survey conducted by the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department reported having at least four or more adverse experiences during childhood.
More than 500 people, mostly in the Kanawha-Putnam County region, took the Adverse Childhood Experiences Survey that was made available through the department’s website from Nov. 12-28.
Dr. Michael Brumage, the executive director and health officer at KCHD, said 28.2 percent of respondents had an ACE score of four or more out of 10.
An ACE score ranges between 0 and 10. At the end of the survey, respondents received their number. Brumage said the higher an ACE score, the more likely it is for the person to be at risk for smoking, obesity, depression or suicide.
“Even if you have an ACE score of zero, it doesn’t mean you’re immune to drug abuse, alcoholism, depression,” he noted, following a Thursday press conference in Charleston.
The survey, originally conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente’s Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego, Ca., includes 10 questions that centered around abuse and neglect.
Brumage said ACE’s can have a long term effect on an adult. He said things that are unrecognized in the pediatric examination room can show up in the internal medicine examination room decades later.
“That’s really the kind of shocking part of the ACE study is that this has long term effects not only on the mental, but also on the physical well-being of people who’ve endured childhood abuse,” he said.
Brumage said KCHD’s survey was conducted mainly to start a discussion in public health and to introduce the idea of using the scores with primary care providers.
“We hope to bring more attention to how critical this is to the public health problems we face in our community today,” he said. “We’re not trying to find out about abusive households, but what it really helps us do is help inform individuals.”
Programs, such as Partners and Community Outreach in West Virginia, are already working with families to help with adverse experiences during early childhood. Coordinator Michele Baranaskas is ahead of an in-home family education program.
“In-home family education helps prevent adverse childhood experiences by helping the parents understand that the relationship with their child is the most important thing — that they are their child’s first teacher,” she said.
Baranaskas said immunizations have increased through the program.
Brumage also announced the West Virginia ACES Coalition will hold its first meeting the KCHD next month.