A major United Way HEALTH initiative is to study Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) -- the relationship between trauma and abuse during childhood and behaviors and health outcomes later in life. 

The first years of a child’s life can have a profound impact on future learning, behavior and overall well-being. The Central Iowa ACEs 360 Steering Committee is leading efforts to raise awareness of the life-long impacts of childhood trauma and to support initiatives working to prevent or mitigate its effects.

Dr. Robert Anda and the Center for Disease Control's Epidemic Intelligence Service led a landmark study to study the short- and long-term impacts of childhood trauma. 

The Inspiration for the study came from the discovery of a link between child sexual abuse and obesity in a weight loss reduction program, as well as Dr. Anda’s examination of how risk factors related to smoking, alcohol abuse and drug abuse tend to cluster.

The ACE Study revealed that adverse childhood experiences are common. Nearly two-thirds of participants reported at least one ACE and more than one in five reported three or more ACEs.

The study also linked childhood trauma to a range of health and social outcomes including:

  • Alcoholism

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

  • Depression

  • Illicit drug use

  • Ischemic heart disease

  • Liver disease

  • Smoking

  • Adolescent pregnancy

  • Sexually transmitted diseases

  • Intimate partner violence

  • Health-related quality of life

To learn more, please read the Iowa ACEs360 report, and United Way of Central Iowa’s ACEs white paper.