Breaking the cycle of adverse childhood experiences: a program evaluation
McAnally, Jennifer Lyles
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Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are specific types of childhood trauma, that, when experienced, have been found to have dose-response relationship to poor health outcomes later in life, namely, many of the leading causes of death in adults. ACEs include psychological, physical, or sexual abuse, witnessing violence against the mother, living with household members who were substance abusers, mentally ill or suicidal, or who are imprisoned. Recognizing a need for intervention to disrupt this ACE to illness trajectory, The American Academy of Pediatrics has called upon medical providers to address ACEs through screening and community-building. Since there is currently no guideline for how to address ACEs, the purpose of this scholarly project was to evaluate the Lewis and Clark County Health Department (L&CHD) ACE program for effectiveness and alignment with evidence-based practice. Using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention manual titled Introduction to Program Evaluation for Public Health Programs (IPEPHP), an evaluation was completed. Steps included engaging stakeholders, describing the program, developing an evaluation plan, gathering credible evidence, and analyzing the evidence in order to develop conclusions and make recommendations. The L&CHD ACE program was found to be a largely progressive model that is consistent with most program goals and literature. Those who participated in the program tended to complete the program successfully, however, a majority of those who were referred to the ACE program either chose not to take advantage of the referral or declined to participate in the program. This finding was unexpected and warrants further inquiry. It appears that an integrated behavioral health model may be more effective for engaging potential participants, where they are able to initially meet with mental and behavioral health experts in the familiar primary care setting.