The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the federal agency responsible for providing victims and survivors of human trafficking access to benefits and services needed to help them restore their lives and achieve self-sufficiency. The Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services to Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States calls for coordinated, effective, culturally appropriate and trauma-informed care for victims and survivors.
Trafficking victims and survivors may suffer from an array of physical and psychological health issues stemming from inhumane living conditions, poor sanitation, inadequate nutrition, poor personal hygiene, brutal physical and emotional attacks at the hands of their traffickers, dangerous workplace conditions, occupational hazards and general lack of quality health care.
Preventive health care is virtually non-existent for these individuals. Health issues are typically not treated in their early stages, but tend to worsen until they become critical, even life-endangering situations. In many cases, health care is administered at least initially by an unqualified individual hired by the trafficker with little if any regard for the well-being of their “patients” — and even less regard for disease, infection or contamination control.
A few months ago in response to the Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services to Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States, our office collaborated with the HHS Office of Women's Health to develop a pilot project that will create a national technical working group to strengthen coordination of medical and health system responses to human trafficking. Specific actions include:
- Supporting the development of protocols to manage and provide services to victims of human trafficking
- Training and educating health care providers to recognize signs of human trafficking, identify potential cases, and respond effectively
- Creating a referral mechanism for healthcare professionals to inform and connect with law enforcement agencies, social service providers, and community-based organizations
- Promoting effective, culturally relevant, and trauma-informed care to improve the short-term and long-term health of victims.
CMDA Health Consultant on Human Trafficking and Direct of U.S. Training for Hope for Justice Jeff Barrows, DO, MA: “I was honored to serve on the technical working group mentioned by Dr. Askew that was established by the Department of Health and Human Services in response to the Federal Strategic Action Plan on Human Trafficking. This past year, that technical working group developed a two-hour training for healthcare professionals on human trafficking and piloted that training in five different locations across the country.
“There is need for standardized training curriculum on human trafficking that is evidence-based and shown to be effective in helping identify victims of human trafficking within the healthcare setting. A study published last year found that almost 88 percent of victims of domestic sex trafficking encountered a healthcare professional while being trafficked.1
“The CMDA Commission on Human Trafficking is about to undertake a randomized survey of a portion of the membership of CMDA regarding their knowledge of human trafficking. This survey is being conducted in association with Liberty University and is an effort to add to the limited existing data regarding healthcare professional knowledge of human trafficking. A survey of emergency room personnel in 2012 found that less than 6% were confident in their ability to identify a victim of human trafficking, while only 2% had received any formal training on human trafficking.2
- If you think you have come in contact with a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888. For more information on human trafficking, visit www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking.
- If you are chosen to participate in this survey, please help us gather this critical data by taking the few minutes necessary to complete the survey. It will help us develop evidence-based training curricula that will eventually lead to victims being identified and freed.
- Equip yourself to recognize and respond to victims of human trafficking by taking CMDA's CME-credit online course at www.cmda.org/TIP.
1 Lederer, L. and Wetzel, C.A. “The Health Consequences of Sex Trafficking and Their Implications for Identifying Victims in Healthcare Facilities.” (2014) The Annals of Health Law 23:1. 61-91.
2 Chisholm-Straker, M., Richardson, LD., and Cossio, T. “Combating Slavery in the 21st century: The role of emergency medicine.” (2012) J Healthcare for Poor and Underserved 23:980-987.
CMDA resources on human trafficking