Laura Porter Shares National Perspective on Using ACEs to Shift Policy and Practice - Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

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Laura Porter Shares National Perspective on Using ACEs to Shift Policy and Practice

May 12, 2016 Written By: Maggie Litgen

In a talk titled “The Magnitude of the Solution: Building Self-Healing Communities,” Laura Porter, a national expert on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), addressed an audience of over 200 clinicians, researchers, teachers, service providers and other community members on April 27, 2016 about the importance of understanding the impact of trauma on health. The talk was hosted by the Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative at Northwestern University’s Chicago Campus through generous support of the Health Federation of Philadelphia.

Porter’s talk emphasized a shift in her own philosophy from previous years – whereas in the past, she emphasized resilience as the end goal of ACE-informed practices, she now believes that resilience, as a concept, is too limited.

“Whenever I talk about the ACE study, people always really want me to emphasize resilience, but I also kind of feel like we’ve set our sights a little low when we’re talking about resilience,” Porter said. “Resilience means doing well in the face of great adversity, and don’t we want less adversity?”

Instead, Porter believes that those working with ACEs should look to increase the overall wellbeing of communities so that each individual – regardless of ACE score – can improve their standard of living. This requires de-emphasizing resilience and instead focusing on what Porter calls “flourishing.”

“I’m thinking more about this word ‘flourishing’ because that word is a journey word, and I think a big part of what we’re doing here is a journey,” Porter said. “We’re trying to learn how we prosper with sustained and continuous and steady and strong growing into wellness. Every single person can be on the path to be growing into wellbeing in their daily lives, whereas if we set our sights only on resilience, then we’re talking about the division of our people – those who have great adversity, and those who did not – as opposed to, together we have to be on this journey of flourishing.”


Porter also highlighted that ACEs and trauma must be addressed through a “layering of action” through a collective impact model across several sectors. The Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative is one of fourteen communities in the country that, with the support of the Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities grant, are using collective impact to achieve systems-level change.

“I don’t need to spend my time thinking about what the policy-makers should do because they’ll be acting in their sphere of influence,” Porter said. “I need to be thinking about what my neighborhood should do, and vice versa. If we each act in our own sphere of influence, and we broadly disseminate the science with fidelity, we get this elegant layering of action that’s immediate and that’s multi-dimensional, and because of those two things, it’s very powerful.”

To learn more about Porter and her work, visit To learn more about the IL ACEs Response Collaborative, click here.