February 11, 2015

The findings resulted in establishing two pilot parenting place sites in Shelby County, Tennessee.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – Following the successful completion of a 2013 survey Public Health Management Corporation's Research and Evaluation Group (REG) conducted in Philadelphia assessing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on urban communities, the ACE Task Force of Shelby County, Tenn., contracted REG to undertake a similar study examining adults living in and around Memphis.

Barbara Holden Nixon, chair of the ACE Task Force in Shelby County, said, "The ACE Task Force reached out to PHMC because we thought the survey and research PHMC did for Philadelphia was excellent and we felt PHMC was an organization that understands ACE data and methodology."

According to Mary Harkins-Schwarz, REG Evaluation Specialist, securing a report for a second major metropolitan area demonstrates that the survey methods are valid and the findings replicable "It shows our capability to do work in other populations and expand our reach," she said. In addition, Harkins-Schwarz noted, the fact that people in both surveys responded so thoroughly to the very personal questions, "attests to our ability to design a study that is capable of gathering sensitive information."

Both the Philadelphia and Shelby County ACE surveys capitalize on findings from the original study of ACEs conducted in the late 1990s, which showed that negative experiences during childhood, such as suffering child abuse or neglect or parental substance abuse, not only impact quality of life during childhood, but also have a detrimental impact on the health and well-being of that child as an adult. ACEs have been linked to an increase in risky health behaviors during adulthood, such as smoking, illicit drug use and multiple sexual partners. Having a high number of ACEs has also been associated with poor health outcomes in adulthood, such as heart attacks, cancer and depression.

REG's Tennessee survey included telephone interviews with more than 1,500 adults. The report can be found here. Overall, 52 percent of the adult population in Shelby County, an estimated 361,200 adults, has experienced at least one ACE, and 12 percent of adults experienced four or more ACEs. As found in other studies, emotional abuse is the most prevalent ACE in Shelby County; 23 percent of adults in Shelby County reported that they had experienced emotional or verbal abuse as a child. Twenty percent reported that they experienced sexual abuse as a child and 14 percent reported that they experienced physical abuse as a child.

Understanding the burden of childhood experiences on adults can support community efforts to provide appropriate programs and services. "The ACE Task Force will use the findings from the report prepared by PHMC to educate the community that ACEs go across all strata levels of our community," Holden Nixon said. "We plan to use the ACE data as a community conversation starter. In an effort to promote a healthier community and to address the prevention of adverse childhood experiences, we are piloting two Universal Parenting Place sites. These sites will provide families with professional guidance to help prevent common child-rearing challenges from becoming chronic physical, emotional and behavioral problems."

The Tennessee survey's findings and the fact that they show the need for parenting centers were the subject of a public forum featuring community leaders including the mayors of Memphis and Shelby County. That event was the subject of several media stories in outlets such as WREG-TV, LocalMemphis.com and The Memphis Flyer.

The Philadelphia survey, conducted in partnership with the Institute for Safe Families, included more than 1,700 adults. The data from that report is housed at the Health Federation of Philadelphia.

For more information about measuring ACEs and their impact on a community, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

About PHMC
Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) is a nonprofit public health institute that creates and sustains healthier communities. PHMC uses best practices to improve community health through direct service, partnership, innovation, policy, research, technical assistance and a prepared workforce. PHMC has served the region since 1972. For more information on PHMC, visit www.phmc.org.