Child Health Care

State Incentivizing Doctors to Perform Adverse Childhood Experience Screenings

Research suggests 'Adverse Childhood Experiences,' or ACEs, can influence biomechanical changes in children and increase their risk for developing heart disease, depression, and other serious illnesses

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Your child’s next doctor’s office visit could include a screening questionnaire for toxic stressors, which experts at Rady Children's Hospital say can impact a child's physical health.

For years the focus of a child's health has been physical and not mental, but the state of California is making a change.

When you bring your child in for a routine check-up, doctors will be screening for adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, which research suggests can influence biomechanical changes in children and increase their risk for developing heart disease, depression, and other serious illnesses.

This means there will be some personal questions you, and possibly your child, could be asked to answer. The screenings are voluntary – doctors don’t need to offer them and patients or their caregivers don’t have to participate.

The state-approved questionnaire will inquire about experiences including divorce, domestic violence, different forms of abuse, shelter, and diet. Parents and caregivers will fill out the survey for children under 12, and kids 12 to 19 will complete their own in addition to their parent’s or caregiver’s.

The state will reimburse pediatricians conducting the screening for patients on Medi-Cal or Medicaid.

Staff at Rady Children’s Hospital, where ACE screenings have been given to children for at least the last seven years, say it’s about time an emphasis is placed on combining physical and mental health treatment in young children.

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