Human trafficking involves the engagement of a person in labor or sexual exploitation using force, fraud or coercion. It is a significant public health issue that is associated with numerous adverse physical and behavioral health effects. Research suggests that child and adult victims are likely to come into contact with healthcare professionals. In a recent study, almost 90% of sex trafficking survivors reported seeking medical services at some point during their victimization.
Trafficked persons may present to emergency departments or clinics, to primary care or specialty care physicians, and to mental health providers. Common health problems include acute physical or sexual assault, sexually and non-sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy-related issues, depression, suicidality, substance misuse, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. It is critical that medical and behavioral health professionals are educated about human trafficking and prepared to identify risk factors and potential indicators, as well as respond in a situationally and culturally appropriate manner. Yet many practitioners have received little or no education on trafficking and feel poorly prepared to recognize and assist victims. There is a need for a centralized resource for healthcare professionals to obtain high-quality education about human trafficking, as well as critical technical assistance to develop protocols and implement changes in practice.
The Institute for Healthcare and Human Trafficking (IHHT) provides assistance to medical and behavioral health professionals seeking information on all types of human trafficking (labor/sex; children/adults; domestic/international). The goals of IHHT are: 1.) to raise awareness among health professionals about human trafficking; 2.) to increase the ability of professionals to recognize potential victims and respond appropriately; and 3.) to contribute to the body of research on human trafficking.
IHHT offers the following:
- Online resources for health professionals that includes research articles, sample protocols, fact sheets, patient information sheets, and other resources
- Free onsite training for medical and behavioral health professionals to help staff develop the skills needed to recognize and intervene in cases of suspected human trafficking (a one-hour presentation with free CME/CNE credits; the session may be offered multiple times at large organizations in order to reach many staff members)
- Free technical assistance for hospital or clinic staff to develop guidelines/protocols for responding to suspected human trafficking.
The Institute at MagMutual® offers an online CME course on this topic for policyholders, Human Trafficking Meets Healthcare: An Opportunity for Intervention.
 Lederer LJ, Wetzel CA. The health consequences of sex trafficking and their implications for identifying victims in healthcare settings. Annals of Health Law. 2014;23:61-91.