People who work in population health understand first-hand the effects of trauma.
Recently, the trauma some people are dealing with might have a root cause in COVID. Or, they could be experiencing a systemic health disparity. Or, they could be a child dealing with an unstable environment or an adult who grew up in an unstable environment.
Programs that use community health workers (CHWs), promoters, health advocates and others with similar titles are in many ways dedicated to addressing the fallout. To help all clients, no matter their age, CHWs should have some training adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) so they know ways to support clients and their families.
Core Competencies for CHWs
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Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
ACEs are possibly traumatic events that happen to children up to 17 years old. The anxiety, worry and stresses that caregivers feel is contagious. The effects of these feelings can be passed down to young children.
In some cases, according to the CDC are, the stress can be clearly negative parenting:
- experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect
- witnessing violence in the home or community
- having a family member attempt or die by suicide
Or, it can be the effects of an unstable environment, such as:
- being in a household with substance use problems
- having a caregiver with mental health problems
- going through instability due to parental separation or household incarceration
About 61% of adults surveyed across 25 states reported that they had experienced at least one type of ACE, and nearly 1 in 6 reported they had experienced four or more types of ACEs. That number is likely higher because of the COVID pandemic.
ACEs can negatively effect the health of people all through their lives. They can have a higher risk of injury, maternal and child health problems, chronic diseases and mental health problems.
The Need for Adverse Childhood Experiences Skills
ACEs are preventable. If caregivers and others such as CHWs can provide support and safe environments, then everyone in a community can be healthier.
This is always important, but higher rates of abuse and stress in the COVID era means that now is the right time to train your staff in skills to prevent ACEs.
If you want to your staff to support clients, patients and community members, they’ve got to master these five super skills:
Here Are 5 ACEs Super Skills
1. Basic ACEs Training
Learners should begin any ACEs study with an introduction to what ACEs are. A foundational course in the topic will provide an overview that includes prevalence and impact, such as health disparities, and a lifetime of complications.
A basic training should also cover root causes of ACEs, including toxic stress and family histories. It should also cover screening, risk assessments, and options for treatment.
2. Trauma-informed Care
Your team should build on a basic program with an introduction to trauma-informed care. This kind of course should describe what trauma is and how it can impact a person’s brain development through ages.
A trauma-informed care course should also focus on ways to identify trauma, especially in children. It should provide ways to promote safety and respond to families who are undergoing trauma.
3. Behavioral Healthcare
CHWs should learn about behavioral healthcare, including mental illness, depression and substance use. Behavioral healthcare training for CHWs should help participants learn how to recognize some of the more common mental illnesses and communication skills for ways to support clients and their families.
4. Substance Use
Substance use is a part of many behavioral healthcare programs, but anyone dedicated to reducing ACEs should delve a little deeper into this topic. This is often a coping mechanism to control stress in adults but can have a severely negative effect on kids.
A substance use course will describe how alcohol and drug addictions affect the whole family. They should learn how addictions work and what kinds of effects substances have on the body and other illnesses. A substance use course will also provide learners strategies for connecting clients to cessation programs and resources.
5. Care Coordination
CHWs need to double down on learning how to develop and improve care coordination and system navigation skills to reduce ACEs.
Knowledge in care coordination allows agencies to combine and share information among teams, organizations, and facilities whose services that clients need. This skill, paired with system navigation, is essential to coordinate care among many providers and agencies. It’s also a natural partner with building outreach skills.
Care coordination and system navigation helps learners gather resources and connect services providers for patient and client help.
Stressors will never go away, but ACEs can be stopped. Your team should focus on keeping negative influences from having an overwhelming impact on communities.
Ready for training in ACEs or some of these other topics? Contact CHWTraining for a free consultation with one of our education consultants.
Roles and Boundaries of CHWs
This 45-minute on-demand training includes topics like the differences between CHWs and other health staff, common roles, and boundaries for supervisors and managers who want to add CHWs to their team.