San Francisco-based Dignity Health unveiled new guidelines on Tuesday for healthcare organizations to identify and respond to patients suspected of being human trafficking victims.
As human trafficking incidents including prostitution and forced labor continue to rise, the healthcare industry offers a unique opportunity for human trafficking victims to seek help, as they are usually kept hidden as part of their captivity. Dignity Health spent the last three years developing its own human trafficking response program and is sharing the lessons it learned with other providers.
“Being in healthcare I think offers a unique opportunity to connect with a person and to potentially view for red flags that are observable,” said Holly Gibbs, director of human trafficking response at Dignity Health. “It can provide a setting where there’s more trust between a patient and a provider, and so you may be able to ask certain questions without the threat of authorities getting involved.”
Nearly 60% of healthcare professionals have never received training to identify human trafficking victims, according to a 2015 study published in the journal Pediatrics.
Dignity’s recommendation includes encouraging healthcare professionals to focus particularly on assessing patients in vulnerable populations—such as children, undocumented immigrants, the homeless and those with substance abuse or behavioral health disorders.
Reported incidents of human trafficking—whether it’s in the form of prostitution or forced labor—have increased in recent years. In 2016 the National Human Trafficking Hotline reported more than 7,500 cases of human trafficking in the U.S., a 35% increase over the 5,544 cases reported in 2015 and a 130% rise compared to the number reported in 2012.
“It’s just not something really on doctors’ radar,” said Jacqueline Bhabha, a professor at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
If patients show fearful or submissive behavior, physical signs of abuse or have a controlling companion with them, those may be indicators they are a human trafficking victim.
Read the rest of the story at modernhealthcare.com (photo source: gettyimages.com)
What can YOU Do?
If you ever witness a situation suspicious of human trafficking,
please call the human trafficking hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888