The Globally Reduce Adverse Childhood Experience (GRACE) Initiative aims to advance and translate the science of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) to improve the lives of children and families worldwide.
The early years of life comprise a crucial period during which humans go through critical physical, physiological, neurological, behavioral and emotional development. During this stage, not only are infants and children more vulnerable to biological pathogens and environmental toxins, but they are also more susceptible to specific traumatic events, known collectively as adverse childhood experiences (ACE). These can include:
- Physical or emotional neglect
- Verbal, sexual and physical abuse
- Family dysfunction
- Other toxic stressors
ACEs have been linked to multiple hard-to-treat and expensive mental health, communicable and non-communicable diseases during childhood and into adulthood.
In some countries, as many as half of the entire population is exposed to at least one of the 10 original ACEs; thus, the long-term damage due to ACEs is high, especially in settings and communities affected by war, famine and displacement.
While the science of ACEs and trauma-informed care is still in its early stages, the existing knowledge is rarely used in research efforts conducted in global settings or incorporated into clinical practice. Lack of attention to ACEs undermines efforts to reduce health disparities in those communities. The GRACE Initiative will address these obstacles via several activities.
Translational research and knowledge transfer
We conduct rigorous systematic reviews of the literature to understand what works and what doesn’t to mitigate the effects of ACEs and make that knowledge widely accessible to inform policy, design programs, identify research gaps and propose innovative ACE prevention approaches. We leverage our existing methods applied to other diseases, incorporating economic evidence to identify return on investment for various interventions, thus enhancing the value of our work for policy and program development. Our research framework includes adversities beyond the 10 original ACEs assessed in the CDC and Kaiser Permanente landmark study.
While we recognize the needs of people affected by ACEs, we strive to shift the health policy paradigm exclusively from treatment to primary prevention. We leverage the science of knowledge transfer to engage policymakers, raise awareness about the importance of the root causes of public health problems, and advocate for the primary prevention of ACEs.
ACE-focused scientific community at UCSF and beyond
As one of the leaders in the field, UCSF is home to numerous individuals and research groups engaged in groundbreaking ACE-related activities, including education, research, prevention, treatment, advocacy and policy.
We aim to build on the work of these individual research initiatives and build a community of faculty, students, staff, affiliates and partners who share a passion for addressing childhood adversities. We plan to include people from the Bay Area community and partner with local, national and international communities and organizations. We will convene meetings and annual symposiums within UCSF to foster collaboration and serve as a liaison to domestic and global health ACE research activities and programs. Join our community and tell your stories.
We raise awareness about ACEs in specific target communities and inspire and engage children, parents, health care providers, teachers, community leaders and other stakeholders. We seek to normalize the ACEs conversation via convening community events and creating safe spaces for children and their families to connect, play and learn. We research to cultivate and enhance the father’s role in resilience-building in children.
While almost all families and children can benefit from our work, our initiative directly focuses on those who have been exposed to or are at risk of ACEs, especially in communities affected by war, forced displacement, or ongoing social and economic injustices worldwide. BRIX: Connect & Care is our early phase initiative that uses recycled LEGO™ bricks to build communities in refugee camps and underserved communities in Mexico and Modesto, California.