Human Trafficking and Health Care Professional.


In spite of the legislation that was passed in19th century which outlawed human slavery, today human trafficking and slavery has spread even more than it was at the end of the civil war. Human trafficking which is a modern term for human slavery takes different forms the most common being sex trafficking which is the sale of young girls and women into prostitution as well as labor trafficking which mostly involve men being sold to perform hard labor and get little or no pay in compensation. Other forms include children serving as soldiers and organ’s removal.

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Healthcare professionals have an important role in finding victims of the trafficking while they are still being held as captives and also looking after the mental as well as the physical needs of the victims after they have been released. This requires professionals in the healthcare working for these victims to receive proper education on how to identify the victims and also on their special healthcare needs. (Barrows, 2004)


For a long time according to this journal it has been hard in estimating the number of people trafficked into the United States because the process is hidden and also because of the illegal nature it has regarding all its activities. According to a rough figure that was published by the central intelligence Agency in 1990 there are 50,000 persons trafficked per year and more recent publication indicate that today the figure does not go below 17,500 per year into the united states.

Across international borders the figure is around 800,000 with 80% of them being women and over 50% being minors. The figures however do not include American underage prostitution with the majority coming from abusive homes and forced into the streets where they sell sex while they are being controlled by the trafficker. It is usually assumed that the youths volunteer into the prostitution but the truth is youths cannot proper consent regarding the activity and for this reason prostitution involving under age 18 is termed as severe trafficking. About 3.5% of a sample comprising of 13000 adolescent admitted that they have at least once exchanged sex for money if not drugs.

Role of healthcare professionals

Healthcare professionals strive to uncover and set free these victims and restore their mental as well as their physical health if the victims survive and in order to fulfill the roles, the professionals have to be educated on the human trafficking.

A research on the European trafficking has found that 28% of the victims encounters a professional from healthcare while they are still being held as captives but unfortunately the encounter does not result to the release of the victim because of the failure of the professional in recognizing the actual victim’s condition due to lack of proper training. A recent research indicates that only 13% of personnel working in the emergency department are very confident in identifying the victims of trafficking and another 3% admits that they have never been trained in recognizing such victims.

Healthcare services in their duties to rescue as well as restore have tried to put together a number of clues to help the professionals easily identify a victim of trafficking and they include a patient being accompanied by somebody who appear to be in control of the patient for example insisting to give the health details of the victim. The patient may also tends to have observable signs of torture and acts with unusual fear, being too submissive and is not able to speak in English. Suspicion should also arise if the patient has recently been brought from Europe into the country or from Asia, Canada, India or Latin America and the victims also tend to lack their passports or any other migration document.

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Health care professionals are advised to separate any suspected victim of trafficking from the potential trafficker and in a sensitive manner question the patient about his situation and if possible involve a third party who can speak the language of the victim and if he can generate a rapport with him or her. The suspected victim can be asked if he or she would wish to leave his or her job and if it is possible to comeback to the hospital when not working as he or she pleases.

He should also be asked if he has ever been threatened whenever he has tried to quit from the job and the conditions of his work regarding where he sleeps and eat and whether he has to request for permission to eat, go to bathroom or to sleep. If the response to majority of these question suggest that the patient may have been trafficked, then assistance is sought by the healthcare professionals through the established hotline to have the patient being huddled by properly trained personnel who establishes if the patient is actually a victim of trafficking and therefore liaise with the local resources which are reliable to them.

As the healthcare establishes these victims, they have managed to take steps in providing healthcare because most of the trafficked victims suffer quite a number of health problems beyond expectation based on their age, country of residence as well as gender.

The reason why they are likely to suffer more health problems has been found to be because trafficking involves separation of the victim from his or her home and normal life circumstances through force, some times deception or threats which most of the times deprives the victim of basic needs and causes a lot of stress which is worsened by torture from the traffickers. After the victims reach their destinations they are usually subjected to hazardous work and prostitution which involve a lot of violence, sexually transmitted diseases as well as unwanted pregnancies. Because trafficking is illegal most of the victims are not provided with access to required heath care and when it is given it is not timely which worsens their problems. (Barrows, 2004)


There has been a lot of information on the occurrence of human trafficking as well as remedies to its many adverse effects from both regional and global coalition of the affected countries and various nongovernmental organizations. This collaboration has been addressed with roles and organizational infrastructure to allow their members work unilaterally with healthcare professionals in combating human trafficking through prevention and protection as well as taking care of the victims. This has been achieved through breaking up of the trafficking networks by indentifying the traffickers when they bring the victims to receive medical care. This has partly a played major role in seeking for a long lasting solution in stopping recruitment and transportation of the trafficked persons.

Another focal point that has been addressed in the prevention strategies that has worked so well in the sending countries is the enhancement of the economic development especially for girls and women so that they are not lured into the business in the name of being assisted to better their economic advancement. This has been addressed as having worked best because of educational outreach seminars in educating the members of communities about the tricks normally used as well as the dangers of being trafficked. (Barrows, 2004)


It has been very difficult to carry out investigation and convict the offenders in those countries which have weak legal systems coupled with corrupt police and judicial courts. This has been a major challenge for the healthcare professionals because even in the countries which appear to have a favorable prosecution environment, they also have disappointing results because the police concerned, immigration officers as well as social and health workers have not been given proper training in identification of trafficked victims.

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The estimation methodology prepared by the U.S government being not accessible for peer review during workshops by the participants has not been addressed and even that information available is not from various sources and does not include documentation of all the work making the estimate not replicable for the healthcare professionals. The major challenge in this case is difficulty in transition between the reported and unreported victims where the U.S government relies on estimates done by others regarding the unreported cases and latter adjust them using complex statistical methods and such estimates are not reliable.


Measures taken to prevent human trafficking by healthcare professionals largely depends on the government involved where the government can develop registration purposely meant to make trafficking of people illegal.

The governments of the states largely hit by human trafficking have not had systems to enhance cooperation among different agencies from various nations that deals with law enforcement as well as with concerned non-governmental organizations to break up all the networks connecting the traffickers and their sources. Some countries also legalize trafficking of persons for other purposes except for sex so as to create opportunities for cheap labor in their countries which exposes the victims to a lot of health problems and is against human rights and which is prohibited in the ten American bills of rights. (Barrows, 2004).


Barrows J. (2004): Human trafficking and the healthcare professional: southern medical association.

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