Accreditation

Human trafficking and healthcare

Briefings on Accreditation and Quality, September 1, 2018

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Have you ever returned a patient into the hands of his or her enslaver? 

Do you know the likelihood of recognizing a human trafficking victim? One who came to your facility seeking medical care? Sat with you, spoke with you, was treated by you? 

Your chances are about 13% that you’ll recognize them.

There are many challenges to identifying trafficking victims. Injuries and ailments often are attributed to other causes, such as drug addiction, accidents, or sexual promiscuity. The victims themselves are often afraid to speak up because they or their family members are being threatened. 

Moreover, many providers have major misconceptions about trafficking. They might believe that trafficking is rare (it isn’t). Perhaps they think only people from a certain background can become victims (they come from all walks of life). Or they might assume that if people were victims, they’d speak up (they often don’t). The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 87% of trafficking victims visit a healthcare provider at least once during their captivity and aren’t recognized as victims.

For providers, this raises the horrifying possibility that they might have unknowingly sent victims back to their captors. 

In June, The Joint Commission became the newest heavy hitter to shed light on this issue, releasing Quick Safety Issue 42: Identifying Human Trafficking Victims. The commission says that human trafficking is a “public health issue that impacts individuals, families, and communities” and needs to be recognized. 

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