|ACE exposure in rural adults. (Source)|
Dr. Jean Talbot of the Maine Rural Health Research Center led research for a 2016 study that looked at how ACEs affect adults in both rural and urban areas. "ACEs cluster together. People who report having an ACE are more likely to have more than one," Talbot told Lukens. "It’s easy to think of ways that this could happen. For example, if a parent experiences incarceration or mental illness, this in itself is an ACE for the children in the family, but it can also impair the adult’s ability to care for kids. So it may open up the fault line exposing children to other types of adversity."
Helping kids deal with ACEs could have a big impact on rural health. "We know that ACEs are linked to high-risk health behaviors like smoking and alcohol abuse," Talbot said. "These, in turn, contribute to health outcomes like heart disease, lung cancer, and diabetes – some of the major causes of the widening rural-urban mortality gap. So, if we want to close this gap, we may need to address rural ACEs as part of that effort."
Some rural community clinics and school districts are trying to address ACEs with programs that train teachers to watch for kids facing adverse conditions, and other programs that help children process trauma. Pediatricians are often the first professionals to see that a rural child has had an adverse experience, so the CDC and some nonprofit groups are raising awareness with doctors about the importance of keeping an eye out for them.