ACEs Resilience Initiative

The ACEs Resilience in Wake County Initiative is a multi-sector, community-driven movement to address and prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and build resilience in Wake County.

ACEs have a significant, long-term impact on health, quality of life, economics and education. Research shows that ACEs are common and affect all income levels.






“The child may not remember, but the body remembers.” 


From the documentary Resilience: The Biology of Stress and The Science of Hope.




While ACEs significantly increase the likelihood of disease and illness, there are opportunities for prevention and mitigation. Research shows that the presence of one stable, caring adult in a child’s life is key to building resilience. 

Together, we as a community can work to prevent ACEs and mitigate their impact for a healthy, thriving and economically strong Wake County.

The ACEs Resilience Initiative was launched in April 2017 by Advocates for Health in Action and the YMCA of the Triangle. SAFEchild took over leadership of the initiative in March 2019.

An advisory board, steering committee and work groups comprise leaders from numerous local and state organizations, as well as individuals who want to improve health and well-being in Wake County.

What are ACEs and How Do They Impact Health? 

ACEs are characterized by 10 common childhood traumas in three categories identified by doctors and surveyed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente:

  • Abuse: physical, emotional and sexual
  • Neglect:  physical and emotional
  • Household challenges: mental illness, violence against mother; divorce; incarcerated relative; substance abuse

ACEs Resilience Initiative Coordinator
Lisheema Barr


Wake County residents have seen ``Resilience`` since 2017 through the work of the ACEs Resilience Initiative

ACEs are the biggest determinant of health and social outcomes identified to date – bigger than healthy eating or physical activity (although both of those are parts of the “antidote” that build resilience and improve outcomes). This is where the CDC and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are taking their focus to improve health in this country.

It is important to note that it is not which specific traumas someone has experienced, but how many. That is what impacts health. The good news is there are interventions that organizations and individuals can participate in to build resilience – again, the antidote to ACEs.

Kaiser’s original study, conducted in San Diego in the 1990s, found that 70% of the population surveyed in doctors’ offices had one or more ACEs. As the number of ACEs increased, health problems (and costs) did as well. With three ACEs, the risk for heart disease and depression goes through the roof. Six or more ACEs reduce life expectancy by 20 years. Yet there are actions we can take to turn these outcomes around. Learn more about the statistics and resources.

To quote Dr. Robert Anda from the film Resilience“ACEs are not destiny … ACEs are a tool for understanding the health of a population as a whole. For individuals, an ACE score can be a tool for understanding their own risk for health and social problems, and empower them to make changes for themselves and their children.” 

SAFEchild loans DVD copies of Resilience to community organizations interested in taking action to prevent ACEs, to build resilience and to use trauma-informed approaches in Wake County.