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Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), first defined in 1998, are defined as stressful or potentially traumatic events that have a negative lasting effect on health and wellbeing. A new study, “Screening for Adverse Childhood Experiences in Children: A Systematic Review,” in the February 2022 Pediatrics (published online Jan. 24) raises questions about the value of population screening children for ACEs. ACEs include physical, emotional and sexual abuse and parental separation, divorce, mental illness, violence, and drug abuse and are associated with an increased risk of physical and mental health problems, including heart disease, cancer, anxiety and depression. Identifying ACEs early is important for prevention of poor health outcomes. In response, screening for ACEs has been suggested by various health organizations, but a national survey of pediatricians shows 61% did not ask about ACEs and only 2% said they were very familiar with the research on ACEs. This review of research found only four U.S. studies on ACEs screenings and limited evidence that screening for ACEs improves identification of ACEs or referrals to community services that could help. Researchers concluded that there is no evidence that screening for ACEs improves mental health outcomes for children or parents, and as ACEs screening can be traumatic, more research is needed that measure both harms and benefits of ACEs screenings.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.