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Officials address disorders

By Adam Urquhart - Staff Writer | Oct 5, 2019

NASHUA – As the number of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) a young person encounters increases, so too does the likelihood that individual will be at-risk for suicide, substance use disorder and even early death.

The lasting impacts of ACEs can wreak havoc on an individual as they navigate their way through life in terms of risky health behaviors and chronic health conditions. ACEs are common stressful traumatic experiences which affect a child’s development and their health throughout their lives. These fall into three categories – abuse, neglect and potentially traumatic experiences that occur to individuals under the age of 18.

Nashua Director of Public Health and Community Services Bobbie Bagley said city officials have been dealing with issues ranging from chronic disease, to the opioid epidemic and even now what is being seen in terms of suicide.

“Adverse childhood experiences impact all of those things,” Bagley said.

She gave examples such as poverty and a lack of economic stability, as well as witnessing domestic violence, that can negatively impact a child as they mature. Moreover, these experiences have been linked to behaviors such as substance use disorder, lack of physical activity and missing work. Some physical and mental health outcomes linked to ACEs include obesity, diabetes, depression and suicide attempts.

Nashua officials are now taking aim at getting to the root causes of ACEs to prevent these associated health risks by better understanding trauma.

About 100 people convened at the Event Center at the Courtyard by Marriott this week for the Greater Nashua Public Health 2019 Annual Meeting. The focus was on ACEs and developing strategies to make inform the public about trauma impacts.

“It’s all about adverse childhood experiences and becoming a more trauma-informed community to be able to respond to things like the opioid crisis, suicide, child abuse and neglect,” Bagley said.

In January, she said the division received a grant from The Kresge Foundation in the amount of $119,100 to focus on a particular public health issue. The division is now embarking on a major initiative to address major health issues that result from ACEs and adverse community environments, while looking at getting to the root cause of addressing emergent public health issues. She said officials have done so much work as a collaborative around the opioid epidemic, but no want to take those same efforts and development a capacity as leaders and strategists to now address the root causes for opioid addiction.

“It aligns very much with what we learned through the community health assessment and some of the priorities of the community health improvement plan, and so the opportunity that we were able to capitalize on through Kresge was to use those funds to build our leadership capacity at the division, and to build our leadership capacity within our Public Health Advisory Council to do systems mapping,” Bagley said.

Now, officials will take a look at what is currently available in terms of organizations and services are available, after looking at what is in place and working well.

“Public health can’t do it alone,” Bagley said.

She said people need to work together comprehensively and as an entire community to address the issue. When the impact of trauma is understood, it helps health officials better understand why some people are at risk for SUD and suicide. As it is, the city has a number of measures in place to address SUD, for example, but Bagley said they are not looking at the root causes.

“This work allows us to look at the root causes, and so that’s why this is so important,” Bagley said. “This will help us as a community and as a region to address issues from a different perspective.”

Adam Urquhart may be contacted at 594-1206, or at aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.

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