Iowans Thrive Blog
Featuring stories, research, and news on Iowa's movement to respond to ACEs
You likely see firsthand how families experience stress and adversity in your community and the important work taking place to connect families with services and supports. Informing elected leaders about what is happening in their districts can ensure they are making decisions that promote the conditions for families to thrive.
Groups in two Iowa communities especially have engaged in advocacy with elected officials. These groups consist primarily of government and nonprofit representatives who understand the role they can play in educating their representatives as they weigh policy decisions, without telling them how to vote:
Wapello County Healthy Communities is a group in the Ottumwa area that regularly connects about 40 representatives from organizations in early childhood, education, health and human services, government, and economic and workforce development sectors. Since the 1990s, it has hosted a legislative forum each December. State and federal leaders and their staff are invited to learn about issues related to family and child well-being in the region and to share their priorities. Elevating issues collectively also has encouraged changes, like speeding up the rate of Medicaid reimbursements to providers and looking at childcare solutions that improve the quality of care.
The Thriving Families Alliance in the Council Bluffs area brought organizations in the family support sector together to inform legislators of their work and the needs they see during the 2022 state session. Organizing the forum was the next step in Executive Director Patricia Russmann’s efforts to connect issues related to family well-being with the priorities leaders are focused on. She also has engaged in conversations with the business community and with local officials to help elevate family support as a part of their goals.
Here are ideas Pat McReynolds, Regional Director of the Mahaska Wapello Early Childhood Iowa, and Russmann with Thriving Families offer for engaging in advocacy:
The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study was groundbreaking in that it showed a link between childhood trauma and adult health outcomes. The more types of childhood trauma adults reported experiencing, the greater their likelihood of having a wide range of health and mental health challenges, including anxiety, heart disease, substance use disorder, and diabetes. Iowa’s study, for example, shows that individuals with four or more ACEs are 5.3 times more likely to have COPD and 7.7 times more likely to have depression than those reporting zero ACEs.
The ACE Study has spurred a movement focused on trauma-informed care, which considers what has happened to someone who may be experiencing challenges, rather than what is wrong with them. It also has led to using the ACE Study survey to measure individuals’ level of ACEs to better understand how past experiences may be influencing their current well-being.
Knowing the connection between ACEs and adult outcomes is critical in working with individuals to heal from trauma and to prevent and mitigate ACEs in the future. Already, the ACE Study has inspired important policy and practice changes. But as we’ve learned more about the ACEs research, we also recognize that the ACEs survey should only be used within certain carefully established settings.
Here are three reasons why sharing the survey with individuals may be problematic:
This fall, we are launching an 18-month effort to expand engagement and collaboration with groups working to respond to ACEs in local communities across Iowa. The focus of this project will be to build collective advocacy efforts to improve supports for children and families, especially in underserved and marginalized communities.
This work is made possible by a $50,000 Community Change Grant from Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation, which focuses on innovative projects that address key health issues by engaging systems change at the community level. Our work also continues to be generously supported by Mid-Iowa Health Foundation, which recently awarded Iowa ACEs 360 a three-year operating grant to focus on systems-change work that improves health outcomes for children and families.
Nine2Thrive™ was created to help pregnant moms experiencing significant stress access the support they need for a healthy and successful pregnancy. Having support and resources—including safe and affordable housing, healthy food, and mental health care—improve not only the well-being of parents, but also their child. Reducing parent stress creates a buffering protection that allows babies to have a strong foundation for lifelong healthy development as they begin to grow in the womb.
A recent evaluation of the Nine2Thrive™ model in its second year found the following results and lessons learned that can inform similar efforts to prevent ACEs.
We are thrilled to have been selected as a finalist for the CareSource Foundation Grant Challenge, with the possibility of winning up to $50,000 to support our mission. From October 18-29, 2021, Iowans can vote once a day for the organization that is inspiring innovation on reducing health disparities and moving the needle on health equity.
We are proud to be recognized for this challenge grant among many organizations who are leading incredible work to improve Iowans' health and well-being. This grant would further our efforts to empower communities, organizations, and individuals to take informed actions that promote healing from ACEs and the healthy development of kids from the start.