LAGUNA HILLS, Calif., May 13, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- The first national public awareness campaign aimed at educating the public on the negative physical and mental health impacts that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can have on all Americans launched this week and will run through the end of October.
California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, a pioneer of changing how our society recognizes and responds to ACEs, is providing a major voice within the campaign. The public will be invited to visit NumberStory.org, a website that describes ACEs and shares actionable resources for adults and families impacted by them.
Understanding of ACEs largely originates from a landmark study of 10 categories of childhood abuse, neglect and household challenges, such as having a parent or caregiver with mental illness or experiencing parental divorce. The effect of ACEs can lead to increased probability of heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and stroke as well as a greater chance of depression, anxiety, and suicide. A recent study estimated the total annual cost of ACEs in California alone to be $112.5 billion.
"Science demonstrates that children's developing brains and bodies are particularly vulnerable to ACEs and toxic stress," said California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris. "Unless we act intentionally, the echoes of these often traumatic experiences – which have been compounded by the pandemic – will be felt in the health of our children for decades. Now more than ever, we have an unprecedented opportunity to raise awareness of this significant health crisis in an effort to prevent the long-term harms that it has on our society."
The number of such experiences that occur before age 18 is measured, and results in an ACE score. The life expectancy of individuals with six or more ACEs is 19 years shorter than that of individuals with none. However, ACEs are not destiny and California is leading the way when it comes to empowering physicians to take action by screening for ACEs through the ACEs Aware initiative. Number Story's national campaign elevates ACEs even further by ensuring all individuals understand the story behind each number so they too, can take action. In time, "The Story of Your Number" campaign will illustrate to millions what research already proves: ACEs affect all communities and cross ethnic, socioeconomic, gender and geographic lines.
"There is incredible work happening to prevent and address ACEs in communities across the United States, but there remains a gap in public awareness," said Sarah Marikos, MPH, Executive Director of the ACE Resource Network. "When people learn about the science of ACEs and their ACE history, there is often an 'aha' moment that can help people understand their lives, and help them feel less alone. We created the Number Story campaign to put ACEs in the spotlight and bring the lifelong effects of toxic stress and childhood adversity to the forefront of the national discussion so that all of us can begin to heal."
The six-month campaign includes public service announcements (PSAs) as well as social media activations with A-list celebrities to be announced over the next several months.
To further engage young adults, the campaign is working with Get Lit, a Los Angeles-based arts education nonprofit created to increase literacy, empower youth and inspire communities through spoken word poetry. Several high school poets will write and perform new work online about ACEs and their stories. "There is no shortage of statistics, percentages, and correlations outlining both the educational and mental health crises in America," said Mason Granger, manager of Community Outreach at Get Lit - Words Ignite. "Get Lit is committed to the humanity behind the numbers, making sure young people's voices and their stories are heard."
All these activities encourage the public to visit NumberStory.org, available in both English and Spanish. The site includes an immersive, animated sequence that introduces and explains the impact of ACEs. Through the site, visitors can gain a deeper understanding of what an ACE score means to them, proactive steps they can take and resources they can access to help address any related issues.
"It's Mental Health Awareness Month and we can't talk about mental health in this country without recognizing ACEs and toxic stress and the impact it has on our physical and mental well-being," said Burke Harris.
The Number Story campaign is funded through private philanthropy and is a creation of the ACE Resource Network, established to increase awareness around ACEs, education and interrupt the transmission of ACEs to future generations.