Early life experiences can significantly impact a child’s development, which affects their physical, emotional, and cognitive development. Unfortunately, due to multiple factors, including unstable housing, malnutrition, lack of healthcare, and poor environmental conditions, children can experience Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), leading to lifelong adverse effects. There is a high correlation between ACEs and negative health outcomes, including chronic disease(s), mental disease(s), diabetes, obesity, cancer, kidney disease, and stroke. Furthermore, children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are more prone to experiencing ACEs, perpetuating generational poverty.
ACEs have been linked to a higher risk of engaging in violent behavior and increased alcohol consumption. ACEs have become a significant public health issue in Honduras, with rates increasing over time due to various factors such as poverty, social inequality, gang violence, drug trafficking, and political instability. Additionally, violence is one of the leading causes of death in Honduras. Like ACEs, violence has significant negative impacts on the well-being of Hondurans, leading to restricted mobility, reduced access to essential services, and increased social isolation. The trauma and stress associated with violence can also have long-lasting effects on physical and mental health, further exacerbating the negative impact of ACEs. Studies have shown that individuals who have experienced ACEs are more likely to exhibit aggressive and impulsive behavior, have difficulty managing their emotions, and have a higher tolerance for violence. Moreover, violence-related trauma can lead to substance abuse as a coping mechanism. In Honduras, where both ACEs and violence are prevalent, it is not surprising that alcohol consumption is a significant public health concern.
This summer, I will focus my research on assessing ACEs, violence, and alcohol consumption among Honduran medical students at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras (UNAH). Thanks to the recent memorandum of understanding between the Global Health Collaboration Project (GHCP) and the Honduran government, I have local Honduran support, facilitating the completion of each step of my project throughout the Summer. By collaborating with local partners, I ensure a culturally-competent approach to my research design, essential to promote local engagement and the project’s sustainability over time. I aim to develop strong connections with them. Listening to the targeted population rather than telling them what to do will provide the most valuable insight to assess the prevalence of these public health concerns in Honduras and develop effective strategies for preventing and treating the negative consequences of childhood trauma.
I will have measurable progression and results by starting with a small and controlled population, such as UNAH medical students. As a foreign student, I want to contribute to my community by researching generational change in the Latina/o/x population. During the early Summer, I will work with the UNAH College of Medicine’s dean, Dr. Valle, and medical students to create an efficient outreach strategy before distributing the survey. The survey’s content must also be coherent with the Honduran language and cultural norms. I will use the following statistically valid questionnaires in Spanish: Adverse Childhood Experiences Questionnaire, Maudsley Violence Questionnaire (MVQ), and Tobacco, Alcohol, Prescription Medication, and Other Substance Use Tool (TAPS). We will administer and analyze the survey results during the remainder of the Summer. Through this project, I will contribute to the growing research on ACEs and their effects on health and behavior, especially in Central and South America. This research can inform policy decisions and guide the development of targeted interventions such as counseling, support groups, and community-based programs that help individuals cope with the effects of ACEs and build resilience.
The link between ACEs, violence, and alcohol consumption in Honduras highlights the urgency of addressing childhood trauma and violence to reduce risky health behaviors and promote public health in Honduras. Taking a comprehensive approach involving prevention, early intervention, and support for individuals and families is essential to improve the lives of young adults affected by adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and violence. By collaborating with local partners, we can create generational change that will impact Hondurans for years.