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Burden of ACEs and evidence for action across Europe brought together for first time

Published: 20 January 2023

Reducing the on-going toxic impacts of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) across Europe is possible through prevention, building resilience, and engaging in trauma-informed practice, highlights a new report from Public Health Wales, in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe and Liverpool John Moores University. 

Child abuse, exposure to domestic violence and other ACEs can leave people with health, social and economic problems throughout life. Across Europe, an estimated 319 million people have suffered at least one type of ACE, and 142 million have suffered multiple types of ACEs.  

For the first time, this new report brings together evidence on ACEs across Europe and internationally, and highlights effective action to address their burden. 

Sara Wood, from the WHO Collaborating Centre on Investment for Health and Well-being, Public Health Wales commented, “ACEs can have harmful impacts across the life-course, affecting people’s education, health, social and economic opportunities and placing major burdens on society and the provision of public services. By bringing together what is known about ACEs and the evidence for effective action, this report supports the development of a trauma-informed society that is invested in action to prevent ACEs and better support those affected by them.”  

Mark Bellis, Professor of Public Health and Behavioural Science at Liverpool John Moores University said, “We are delighted to have been working with the World Health Organization on this important issue. As well as leaving people more vulnerable to ill health, ACEs can reduce educational attainment, limiting individuals’ opportunities for work and increasing the chances that they and their families suffer from deprivation. With intense competitive pressures on public spending, it is important to remember that investing in safe and nurturing childhoods has lifelong benefits to health and often returns many pounds in savings for every pound spent on tackling ACEs. This report outlines how programmes, which support parenting and bring together skills from health, social and other sectors, can reduce the number of children who ever experience ACEs and improve the health and opportunities of those who tragically continue to suffer abuse, neglect and other forms of adversity.” 

Jonathon Passmore, Regional Technical Officer for Violence & Injury Prevention at the WHO Regional Office for Europe commented, “This report marks the beginning of a new phase of WHO engagement with member states and subnational counterparts for scaling up action on the prevention of and response to Adverse Childhood Experiences.  WHO stands ready to support European member states in the development of national policies and practices.” 

‘Tackling Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) State of the Art and Options for Action’ is a collaborative report from the WHO Collaborating Centre on Investment for Health and Well-being at Public Health Wales, the WHO Collaborating Centre on Violence Prevention at Liverpool John Moores University, and the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe. It shows the on-going toxic impact of ACEs across Europe and how ACEs and their consequences can be prevented.