Press Room

Health Officials Seek to Prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences

ARLINGTON, VA (Nov. 6, 2019)—At least five of the top 10 leading causes of death are associated with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), according to a new report released yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ACEs, such as abuse, neglect, and witnessing violence or substance misuse in the home, can lead to increases in chronic disease, mental health issues, and socioeconomic hardship later in life.

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and its members are committed to helping prevent ACEs to improve long-term health, access to life opportunities, and the overall health of Americans. According to CDC’s report, 61 percent of adults have at least one ACE and 16 percent of adults have four or more ACEs. Preventing ACEs before they occur could prevent up to 21 million cases of depression, up to 1.9 million cases of heart disease, and up to 2.5 million cases of obesity.

State and territorial health departments can lead prevention efforts, including, improving health equity, and reducing health disparities among children and families, by bolstering protective factors. Focusing on community solutions, reducing stigma, and providing access to preventive services can reduce the risk of future ACEs from occurring and mitigate the impact of ACEs that have already transpired.

"Childhood experiences can have a powerful and enduring impact on health and opportunity well into adulthood," says Nate Smith, ASTHO president and secretary of health at the Arkansas Department of Health. "We all know that children are our future. Fortunately, our communities can come together to prevent ACEs. We can provide to families the proper economic and social support to create safe and nurturing environments for society's most vulnerable. Protecting against violence and trauma and fostering secure and supportive relationships is how we build a strong foundation for our children and adults."

For more information about ACES, view ASTHO’s issue brief.


ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and freely-associated states, and the District of Columbia, as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.