Community Building

The origins of the ACE study

I read this post on ACEs Connection this morning and was again struck by the force of Dr. Vincent Felitti’s discovery — and my frustration at the pace with which this knowledge is being integrated into the practices and policies of our health and human services sectors.

Felitti told conference attendees that after the first publications of the ACE Study, he integrated the original 200-question survey into the Health Appraisal Center at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, which he ran. After 440,000 patients had answered the questions as part of their bio-social-physical health assessment, he and his colleagues learned that the protocol around asking people about their childhood trauma had cut down emergency room visits by 11 percent. He noted that patients filled out ACEs questionnaires in the comfort of their homes, followed up by an appointment with their doctors who asked, “’Could you tell me how these things have impacted you later in life?’ And we listened, period.”

That interest made a difference: ”Patients told us that they had told the darkest secret of their life to the doctor and the doctor was still nice to them, and wanted to see them again,” he said.

The progress of the past 20 years since the publication of the ACE study certainly merits celebration, but from what I see we’re still going against the current.