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.
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% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG).
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% of children in our region had moved to a new home within the last 24 months, and 4% had moved two or more times during the same time period. Frequent moves were again more common among lower-income families, with 10% of those earning 100% 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% 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%) rated their neighborhood as usually or always safe; however, lower-income families were more likely to have concerns about safety, with 11% of families earning less than 100% FPG considering their neighborhood to be never or only sometimes safe.
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.
The 2017 Child Well-Being Survey is funded by Interact for Health and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, with support from the United Way of Greater Cincinnati. It was conducted March 5-Aug. 9, 2017, by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati. A random sample of 2,757 adult caregivers from a 22-county region in Southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana was interviewed. This included 1,056 landline interviews and 1,701 cell phone interviews with cell phone users. In 95 of 100 cases, the estimates will be accurate to ± 1.9%. There are other sources of variation inherent in public opinion studies, such as non-response, question wording or context effects that can introduce error or bias. For more information about the Child Well-Being Survey, please visit https://www.interactforhealth.org/child-well-being-survey.
Interact for Health is improving the health of all people in our region. We serve as a catalyst by promoting health equity through grants, education, research, policy and engagement. To amplify the impact of our work, Interact for Health focuses on three strategic priorities: reducing tobacco use, addressing the opioid epidemic and ensuring that children have access to health care through school-based health centers. We are an independent foundation that serves 20 counties in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
Interact for Health regularly conducts research and collects data in order to monitor and evaluate our region’s health status and to measure public opinions about health policy.
Our Health in Action stories highlight the innovative work our grantees are doing to help reduce tobacco use, address the opioid epidemic and ensure that children can access health care through school-based health centers. We also interview people working on those issues at other organizations across the country to learn what works for them.
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