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Understanding ACEs: Building Self-Healing Communities

Keynote Presentation and Community Conversation

Keynote presenter: 

Robert F. Anda, MD, MS

Co-Founder, ACE Interface, LLC

Co-Principal Investigator, Landmark ACE Study

This keynote presentation will include a review of how adversity gets embedded in neurodevelopment and affects the way our genome may be used and affected. The public health and community-wide implications of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study will be reviewed, with specific examples of how the science shows that ACEs affect goals and practices in human service systems (education, justice, health care).

Self-Healing Communities use this science—and the understanding and compassion that flows from it—as a platform to engage the creativity, minds and hearts of all people in the community. This type of engagement can lead to healing at the individual level and can help to create a culture of change that brings people who have been affected by ACEs together with the systems that serve them.  This brings hope, new meaning, and the understanding that is necessary for moving beyond old ways of thinking about trauma, ACEs, and their related outcomes. These changes unlock the latent potential and creativity in communities that lead to new ways to interrupt the intergenerational cycle of ACEs and reduce exposure to ACEs for the generations to come.

The ACE Study demonstrates the relationship of childhood abuse, neglect, domestic violence and related experiences to health throughout the lifespan. The findings are consistent with recent discoveries about the neurobiology of stress and the effect of stress on the developing central nervous system. Unlike other studies, the ACE study assessed a wide array of traumatic childhood experiences as well as many health and social problems from adolescence to late adulthood. The number of ACEs has a graded relationship to many common medical and public health problems. An overview of these concepts and their application to building community capacity to prevent ACEs will be presented.

Keynote Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the basic biology of the effects of childhood trauma on neurodevelopment

  • Understand that Adverse Childhood Experiences  are common and highly interrelated

  • Understand that the  number of Adverse Childhood Experiences has a strong, graded, “dose-response” relationship to many health and social problems. This is consistent with the impact of cumulative stress on childhood neurodevelopment   

  • Understand the concept of the “ACE pyramid” life course model for the long-term effects of impaired neurodevelopment

  • Review the “dose-response” relationship of the ACE score to: leading causes of death, mental health problems-including the risk of suicide and risk factors for suicide attempts, substance abuse, reproductive health, violent revictimization

  • Review the obvious costs of ACEs to society and how they affect human service systems

  • Understand the intergenerational aspect of ACEs

  • Review concepts of community application and systems change

  • Review ideas needed to reduce the intergenerational cycle of adversity

Community Conversation with Dr. Anda


Parent panelist 

Juvenile justice system partner

Educational system partner

Q&A with Dr. Anda

Understanding ACEs: Building Self-Healing Communities: Schedule
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