We are an independent, interdisciplinary network of health professionals working to combat human trafficking and to serve as a centralized resource on health for the broader anti-trafficking community. We have come together to share best practices, expand the evidence base on human trafficking and health, and unify our efforts. We aim to bring a public health perspective to multi-system approaches to human trafficking at the local, state, federal, and international levels.
Why Do We Need a Network for People Working in this Field?
As health professionals serving survivors of labor and sex trafficking in the United States, most of us have worked in isolation to meet the extensive medical and mental health needs of our patients. We strive to improve the well-being of our patients, to better understand the broad and often profound health effects of trafficking, and to create new and improved systems of care to better meet the needs of survivors.
When we have the opportunity to communicate, we discover that we all face similar challenges in working with adults and children who have been trafficked:
- Limited resources to meet the acute and long-term medical and mental health care needs of this population;
- Lack of resources to address social and economic barriers our patients face in accessing and continuing care;
- Lack of systems of trauma-informed care;
- Decentralized and limited data on the numbers of trafficking survivors in the U.S. and their health issues.
- Inadequate/nonexistent data and research into best practices and outcomes
The provision of clinical services to trafficking survivors is challenging due to many factors. Many survivors have limited access to health care due to their insurance, economic, and/or immigration status. Survivors’ access to care varies greatly depending on their legal status, and also varies from state to state (and even county to county) depending on the structure and capacity of local safety net health clinics.
Other challenges in providing health care to trafficking victims/survivors include:
- Limited health literacy
- Limited English Proficiency– language barriers, need for interpretation services, including American Sign Language
- Cultural diversity, cultural barriers to allopathic medicine
- Mistrust/fear of authority
- Lack of adolescent-friendly services
- Stigma regarding mental health issues
- Need for coordination and follow-up of primary care with mental health care, specialty care
- May present with many symptoms, complex picture
- Longer office visits to develop trust and address myriad issues
- Need for intensive case management
- Lack of understanding of human trafficking and trauma-informed care among other medical staff
While reforms provided by the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or “Obamacare”) may improve health insurance coverage for minor survivors and some adults, particularly in states undergoing Medicaid expansion, additional reforms are needed to effectively serve this population. Many international survivors will remain uninsured, and the approach to providing health care to trafficking survivors will remain fragmented. Because most trafficking survivors are female, increasingly restrictive laws regarding access to and funding for women’s health services also threaten our ability to care for our patients.
By working together, we aim to improve access to care and quality of care for trafficking survivors, improve victim identification and referral systems, strengthen research efforts to build an evidence base in this field, increase the visibility of human trafficking as a health issue, and encourage the development of funding streams to support this work.
If you have any questions, comments, or contributions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.