Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Kanawha Health Officials Seek Childhood Experience Data

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Kanawha Health Officials Seek Childhood Experience Data

Article excerpt

Officials from the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department want to know how your childhood was - and they want you to know how that could affect your health now. For the next two weeks, residents may take the Adverse Childhood Experiences Survey on the health department's website.

Bad childhood experiences can lead to poor health and public health consequences for adults, said Dr. Michael Brumage, executive director of the KCHD.

"Until we really begin to address the adverse childhood experiences, we're never going to get to the bottom of the major public health problems that we face here in Kanawha County, Putnam County or the state of West Virginia or anywhere else in the United States for that matter, he said.

The survey asks resident 15 questions about their childhood experiences and their demographic information. At the end, people are told their ACE score, a number from 1 to 10.

The higher a person's score, the higher their risk for smoking, obesity, suicide, depression and drug abuse, Brumage said.

"That doesn't mean that you will have those problems because there are resiliency factors that the ACE score doesn't measure, but it gives you a good indication of maybe not what's wrong with me' but what's happened to me,' Brumage said.

The health department's survey is confidential. The survey does not ask a person's name, and health officials won't see results from individual surveys, just as aggregate data, Brumage said.

Dr. Joan Phillips, a child abuse and neglect pediatrician at Charleston Area Medical Center, said often when she sees children as young as kindergartners they already have had four adverse experiences, which can include abuse, living in a drug environment and having a parent incarcerated. Those experiences can cause toxic stress in children, she said.

"We now know that this toxic stress actually changes their body physiologically and actually changes the structure of the brain, Phillips said. …

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