July 03, 2018 | | Comments 2
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Human Trafficking and Healthcare

This June, The Joint Commission released Quick Safety Issue 42 on identifying human trafficking victims. The Health and Human Services Department estimates that 88% of trafficking victims visit a healthcare provider at least once during their captivity and aren’t recognized as victims. Misconceptions and a lack of awareness have caused many providers to inadvertently send victims back to their captors.

“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and a public health issue that impacts individuals, families and communities,” The Joint Commission wrote in a news release. “The alert provides health care professionals with tips to recognize the signs of human trafficking, including a patient’s poor mental and physical health, abnormal behavior, and inability to speak for himself/herself due to a third party insisting on being present and/or interpreting.”

Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in America, worth $32 billion a year (for comparison, Starbucks’ annual revenue is $19 billion.) It’s difficult to gauge how many victims there are in the U.S. However, in the past 10 years there has been over 40,000 human trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. 

There are many challenges to identifying trafficking victims. Injuries and ailments are attributed to other causes; drug addiction, accidents, sexual promiscuity, etc. The victims themselves are often afraid to speak up because they or a family member is being threatened.

There are many entities working to create standardized human trafficking tools for providers, similar to suicide screening tools, to identify potential victims. The National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners launched a national human trafficking initiative last fall and has come out with a new training module, Human Trafficking 101, which is available online for $15.

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Filed Under: Patient RightsPatient Safety

About the Author: Brian Ward is an Associate Editor at HCPro working on accreditation, patient safety, and quality news.

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  1. Hi there,

    are there any healthcare facilities that you’re aware of that have implemented a process or tool that has been successful in assisting healthcare providers in identifying and “rescuing” human trafficking victims?

    I am looking to implement a process or tool in my Emergency Department to help staff identify victims.

  2. There is!
    The Dignity Health system has implemented a human trafficking screening and response program at all of their facilities. It’s been in place since 2014 and they’ve trained 20,000 staff members as part of it.

    A lot of their materials are free online. As for the tools check out their Human Trafficking 101: Dispelling the Myths module, the PEARR Tool, and the Shared Learnings Manual. You said ED, so I think the PEARR tool in particular will be of help.

    You can also contact Petra Linden, their Director of International Community Health & Human Trafficking, at Petra.Linden@DignityHealth.org for further education on human trafficking response and trauma. They want HTR programs to become a standard offering at all healthcare facilities, so they’ll be willing to work with you.

    We wrote long-form articles on Diginty and PEARR in the November Patient Safety Monitor Journal and more on it will be coming out in upcoming editions of Briefings on Accreditation and Quality.

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