A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Child Well-Being Survey looked at ‘adverse experiences’ in childhood that can be mitigated

Childhood experiences can have a lifelong effect on an individual’s physical, mental and emotional health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that children need “safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments” to grow up healthy.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events or conditions in a child’s life that can negatively affect health and development. Research shows that ACEs can increase the risk of poor long-term health. The 2017 Child Well-Being Survey asked parents and guardians in our region if their child had experienced one of several ACEs to determine their prevalence in Greater Cincinnati.

“As a community, we can improve the outcome for our children by reducing the number of ACEs they experience and by building their resilience to prevent these adverse effects,” said Dr. Robert Shapiro, Division Director of the Mayerson Center for Safe and Healthy Children at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. 
Household challenges: Divorce, incarceration or death of a parent

The Child Well-Being Survey asked parents and guardians if their child had experienced the death, divorce or incarceration of a parent. Children in our region were more likely than children across the country to experience the death or incarceration of a parent. These percentages were even higher among children in families earning less than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG).

Environmental conditions: Safety, housing, school

Changes in a child’s surroundings can also have an impact on his/her health. Instability in housing, switching schools and unsafe neighborhoods can affect the physical and mental health of a young person.
When looking at housing, the Child Well-Being survey found that 14 percent of children in our region had moved to a new home within the last 24 months, and 4 percent had moved two or more times during the same time period. Frequent moves were again more common among lower-income families, with 10 percent of those earning 100 percent FPG or less having moved two or more times. The stress of starting at a new school can also impact a child’s health, particularly if it occurs frequently. The survey found that 2 percent of children in our region had changed schools two or more times in the last two years.

Finally, the Child-Well Being Survey examined caregivers’ perceptions of safety in their neighborhoods. More than 9 in 10 (96 percent) rated their neighborhood as usually or always safe; however, lower-income families were more likely to have concerns about safety, with 11 percent of families earning less than 100 percent FPG considering their neighborhood to be never or only sometimes safe.
Addressing adverse experiences

A variety of strategies can be implemented to help create safe and stable environments for youth. These include programs and policies to support parents, reduce violence, and address mental health and substance use; and assistance for lower-income families.

“As we work together to create strong, healthy neighborhoods where children can survive and thrive, we must consider childhood trauma,” said O’dell Moreno Owens, M.D., M.P.H., President and CEO of Interact for Health. “Some adverse experiences can be avoided. In instances where trauma is unavoidable, we must ensure that local families have resources and resilience necessary to overcome challenges.”

Interact for Health

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