What are ACEs, and why do we screen for them?

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In order to optimize total health and wellness, we need to treat the whole person.  That's always been our philosophy, and is why every FPA patient is screened for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

What are ACEs?

Based on the late 1990s research by the CDC and Kaiser Permanente, ACEs are childhood experiences that affect later-life health and well-being. These include types of abuse, neglect, and housing insecurity. Multiple studies since have confirmed that ACEs and other mental illnesses are a source of chronic toxic stress, which can affect entire communities and be passed on to future generations.  

Among other negative outcomes outlined by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, research has shown that those with ACEs are more at risk for:

  • Depression
  • HIVs and STDs
  • Unintended pregnancy
  • High-risk sexual behavior
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Cancer

ACE screenings are a powerful tool for healthcare providers. When these organizations choose to conduct confidential questionnaires that uncover ACEs, they better understand what their patients are at risk for. They can also offer focused prevention methods and more sensitive care.

ACEs Screenings at FPA

FPA Women's Health was among the first to implement ACEs screenings in California. We were selected to present our work entitled "Incorporating a Behavioral Health Program into an existing Reproductive Health Practice" at a national conference in Florida in April of 2022.

Unfortunately, one in five US women will experience some form of sexual assault during their lifetime. Many survivors of sexual assault are understandably wary of gynecologic examinations. Therefor, we teach all of our clinicians a trauma-informed approach so that we can transform a visit from a potentially retraumatizing experience to a healing interaction.

We also ensure that during an exam, our clinicians move slowly and carefully. They ask permission before inserting a speculum.  We tell every patient that they can stop the exam at any time. We empower women and give them the control over an exam of their own body.  

We hope that by following our example, reproductive health organizations around the country will adopt protocols that screen for prior trauma. Our goal is to interrupt the generational cycle of toxic stress. Every visit for gynecologic care should be a source of healing and comfort.