Fritzi Horstman interviews Dr. Vincent Felitti, co-creator of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Quiz

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Join CPP Founder Fritzi Horstman and guests as they discuss the objectives and approaches involved in bringing trauma awareness and compassionate healing to the forefront of public conversation.

Dr. Vincent J Felitti, MD from Kaiser Permanente is the co-principal investigator, along with Robert F. Anda MD from the CDC, of the Adverse Childhood Experiences research study.

The ACE study changed the way we understand the impact and predisposing influence childhood trauma has on adult health issues. It helped bring to the forefront the realization that we aren’t bad people but, rather, bad things have happened to us which have subsequently impacted our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Dr. Felitti graduated from John Hopkins Medical School, starting his medical career as an infectious disease physician in 1968. Dr. Felitti founded the Department of Preventive Medicine at Kaiser Permanente San Diego and held the position of Chief of Preventive Medicine in 2001. He is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at University of California and a Fellow at the American College of Physicians.

2:05 – Origins of the ACE survey

3:23 – Obesity program uncovers hidden childhood trauma and sexual abuse

4:35 – Major study of 26,000 adults CDC and Kaiser Permanente

5:00 – 10 most common ACES selected that kept coming up with obese patients in weight loss program

5:50 – Initial sample was biased (74% white, middle class)

6:09 – 5% of people in initial study had family member go to prison

7:09 – Of 1000-person sample of those enrolled in obesity program, 55% experienced childhood sexual abuse

8:20 – Female prison population, nearly 100% experienced past sexual abuse

8:41 – ACE survey includes “often or very often” meaning repetitive emotional abuse

9:25 – Parents telling children to keep quiet about abuse, or not believing them, equates to parental neglect (adds another ACE)

10:15 – Unpredictable abuse leads to hypervigilance

11:04 – Domestic violence

12:38 – 440,000 patients over several years were surveyed by integrating ACE questions into medical history questionnaires

13:30 – Mathematician analyzed whether or not the ACE study had any effect on subsequent healthcare of patients

14:00 — ACE survey results in amazing reductions in medical visits within following 12 months

14:25 – Vermont legislature invited Dr. Felitti to present, including ACE information in their state-run programs. Now 22 more states have passed similar legislation.

16:26 – Example of high cholesterol – is it genetics? ACEs?

17:24 – ACEs affect health in three categories including coping (crystal meth is street version of meth antidepressant from 1940s)

19:19 – One of Dr. Felitti’s more memorable patients – obese, heavy smoker, history of childhood molestation

22:46 – Neurochemical depression – life experiences cause chemical changes

23:37 – Prevalence of anxiety in society and 64% of Americans with at least 1 ACE

25:50 – Should we do ACE with the census?

26:55 – Patients appreciated medical staff acknowledging their “dark secrets” and still making them feel accepted

28:39 – Cities have published ACE survey in their newspapers

29:28 – School play idea – address abuse via fictional character development

31:45 – Awareness is key, rage is not who we are

32:37 – ACE awareness in prisons

32:55 – Why doesn’t the media address the childhoods of murderers? Wesley Purkey had an ACE score of 10. We executed him.

35:23 – 2000 ACE surveys have gone out to prisons

36:27 – 4 or more ACEs, seven times more likely to go to prison

36:54 – 3 pathways ACEs lead to disease: Coping mechanisms, toxic stress (brain chemistry) and epigenetics (influences on gene function)

41:58 – autoimmune issues associated with ACEs

42:24 – toxic stress and brain releases pro-inflammatory chemicals

44:45 – Need to improve parenting across the nation

45:57 – COVID and suppressed immune system

47:24 – lifelong fight or flight following child abuse

49:36 – ACEs can take years off of a person’s life

50:15 – Addiction behavior; short term benefits versus future health problems

51:30 – What helps people to heal?

55:15 – Universal understanding, lifting of shame

56:10 – Trauma-informed programs for prisons

58:56 – Role of autobiographical writing in healing of ACEs

1:01:29 – How to create a trauma-informed society

1:03:14 – Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, pediatrician who became California’s Surgeon General after integrating ACEs into her practice

1:05:58 – 27 more states needed to integrate ACE information into their operations

1:08:05 – 2.2 million people in prison

1:09:29 – Physicians need to have ability to see full picture of patient’s health, including past childhood trauma

1:11:47 – Benefits of hypnotherapy – American Society of Clinical Hypnosis

1:20:05 – Solutions (alcohol, workaholic, smoking etc.) all to mask real feelings

1:21:35 – 2021 will be the year America becomes trauma-informed.

1:21:58 – For more information, Google or YouTube Adverse Childhood Experiences Study

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Fritzi Horstman

Founder and Executive Director


Fritzi Horstman is the Founder and Executive Director of Compassion Prison Project. She is a Grammy-award winning producer for her work on “The Defiant Ones”, has been a producer and post-producer on dozens of television projects and documentaries and has directed several films. She believes it is urgent to bring humanity and compassion to those living behind bars and these acts will help transform our society. She has a Bachelor’s Degree from Vassar College.

Fritzi Horstman interviews Dr. Vincent Felitti, co-creator of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Quiz