So, how can a public health perspective help us move forward in addressing the issue of human trafficking? First of all, it opens the fight against human trafficking up to the public; it isn’t just the responsibility of law enforcement or service providers to recognize and engage with victims and survivors, it is also the responsibility of the public to do so. This means communities can raise awareness by involving educators, healthcare providers, parents, and other community members. Most importantly, a public health framework recognizes that human trafficking occurs because of systemic issues and encourages prevention and intervention efforts within communities to address them.
A public health perspective also influences how human trafficking gets addressed. Context is important for understanding the issue of human trafficking and the unique experiences of victims and survivors. For example, research shows that certain populations are more vulnerable to human trafficking than others. Public health prioritizes the recognition of these vulnerable groups to develop targeted prevention strategies and intervention initiatives. An example of this is HEAL (Health, Education, Advocacy, and Linkage) Trafficking, a non-profit group comprised of multi-disciplinary professionals created to facilitate collaboration among healthcare professionals and service providers to offer comprehensive, trauma-informed care to human trafficking victims and survivors. The aim of HEAL Trafficking is to address human trafficking and influence change at the individual, interpersonal, local, state, federal, and international levels.
A public health framework has a lot to offer for the future of anti-human trafficking efforts. Multiple factors allow human trafficking to continue, which consequently leaves many victims and survivors in need of extensive, unique services. Therefore, since human trafficking is not narrowly defined, the scope used to prevent or disrupt this issue must be broadened. For more information, please check out the resources listed below.
“The Power of Framing Human Trafficking as a Public Health Issue” https://www.acf.hhs.gov/otip/resource/publichealthlens
Human Trafficking Is a Public Health Issue: A Paradigm Expansion in the United States. Editors: Chisolm-Straker, M., & Stoklosa, H. (2017)
Image credit: https://healtrafficking.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/cropped-heal-logo-1-e1426167334902.png