HHS launches training to improve health services response for trafficking victims

To better improve the health care response and support given to victims of human trafficking, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office on Women's Health and Office of Minority Health have launched the SOAR to Health and Wellness Training, guiding health providers to “Stop, Observe, Ask and Respond” to human trafficking.

The pilot training effort by HHS recognizes modern-day slavery as a public health concern and will educate a wide range of health care professionals about human trafficking, helping participants identify and respond effectively to potential victims.

In response to the Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States, federal partners and a national technical working group comprised of survivors of human trafficking, medical and health professionals and other stakeholders worked together to inform the pilot’s design and evaluation. 

“We know that many trafficking victims come in contact with health care providers, and this critical link gives us an opportunity to intervene in the trafficking cycle,” said ACF Acting Assistant Secretary Mark Greenberg. “This training will improve how providers identify and serve victims through emergency rooms, hospitals, clinics and ambulatory care facilities. Victims whose previous encounters with health care professionals only resulted in medical treatment will now receive support services to help them along on their road to recovery.”

After receiving SOAR to Health and Wellness Training, health care professionals will be able to:

  • Describe the scope, diversity and types of human trafficking in the U.S.
  • Recognize the common indicators and high-risk factors for human trafficking.
  • State how using trauma-informed techniques will enhance interaction with a potential victim of human trafficking.
  • Identify local, state and national service referral resources for trafficking victims.

In a study of 107 survivors of human trafficking, almost 88 percent had contact with one or more health care professionals sometime during the period in which they were being trafficked, with hospitals and emergency rooms as the most frequently reported treatment site.

Training will begin this September in coordination with the following local health care partners:

  • National Center for Primary Care at Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta
  • Elbowoods Memorial Health Center, New Town, N.D.; Trenton Community Health Clinic and Mercy Medical Center, Williston, N.D.
  • Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
  • Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston
  • Alameda Consortium of Clinics, Oakland, Calif.

Today’s launch also coincides with the first ever observance of United Nations World Day against Trafficking in Persons.

Please visit ACF’s End Trafficking page for more information. 

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