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Some Negative Childhood Events Linked to Problems As Adults

PHOTO: The Minnesota Department of Health says 55 percent of adults in the state experienced at least one adverse experience as a child that can lead to health and economic problems as an adult. CREDIT: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation.
PHOTO: The Minnesota Department of Health says 55 percent of adults in the state experienced at least one adverse experience as a child that can lead to health and economic problems as an adult. CREDIT: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation.
April 16, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Negative experiences as a child can have life-long effects on one's well-being, and the Minnesota Department of Health reports that such events are more common than one might expect.

According to Department Commissioner Ed Ehlinger, a survey of more than 13,000 Minnesota adults found that more than half had at least one adverse childhood experience.

"Children who have had some adverse experiences in the first couple years of life actually have changes in how the brain develops, and it leads to problems later on in life," he reported.

Adverse childhood experiences include everything from verbal and physical abuse to divorce and alcohol problems, and they're linked to poor physical and mental health, chronic disease and lower economic success in adulthood.

In order to reduce the prevalence of such problems, Ehlinger said, there needs to be a shift in focus to better identify and support those at risk.

"And as we're looking at prevention, we really need to move upstream and reduce those," he declared. "This is what's going to make us healthy down the road, rather than medical care treating the symptoms once they develop."

One effort that's already making a difference is the Healthy Foundations program through Head Start at Heartland Community Action Agency in Willmar.

According to child and family development director Cathy Nelson-Messer, much of the focus is on providing the needed tools and training to parents and child-care providers.

"We take time to teach kids how to hold a pencil, how to hold a scissors, how to ride a bike, and somehow as adults it's just assumed that kids are going to know how to behave," she stated. "And so it's giving parents and providers the skills on how to teach children what's expected and how to respond better."

The Healthy Foundations program is being funded through a grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation.

More information is at bit.ly/10Z9j0D.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN