Today, the Office on Trafficking in Persons (OTIP) at HHS’ Administration for Children and Families released a new “Core Competencies for Human Trafficking Response in Health Care and Behavioral Health Systems Visit disclaimer page ” resource. These core competencies highlight skill sets for health care professionals to identify, respond to and serve individuals who have experienced or are at risk of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.
Research has shown individuals experiencing trafficking are likely to seek health care during or around the period of their exploitation. Health care is a critical access point for help, yet health care institutions and providers may not know how to respond.
This resource describes six core competencies and one universal competency to improve prevention, identification, and response to human trafficking by health care professionals, organizations, researchers, and educators:
- Core Competency 1: Understand the nature and epidemiology of trafficking
- Core Competency 2: Evaluate and identify the risk of trafficking
- Core Competency 3: Evaluate the needs of individuals who have experienced trafficking or individuals who are at risk of trafficking
- Core Competency 4: Provide patient-centered care
- Core Competency 5: Use legal and ethical standards
- Core Competency 6: Integrate trafficking prevention strategies into clinical practice and systems of care
- Universal Competency: Use a trauma- and survivor-informed, culturally responsive approach
“In implementing these competencies as standard health professional education and practice, health systems will increase the likelihood of identification and referral, improve overall health outcomes, and prevent future exploitation and re-exploitation from occurring,” said Katherine Chon, director of OTIP.
The core competencies were developed over a three-year consultation period with, health care, behavioral health and social service experts as well as survivors, all of whom identified the need for a strategy to improve health systems and providers’ response to human trafficking. These experts represented a broad range of disciplines, including general practice, psychiatry, pediatrics, emergency medicine, child protection, nursing, behavioral health, research, health science and administration. OTIP worked with three key collaborators: HEAL Trafficking, the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.
- In 2020, the National Human Trafficking Hotline (888-373-7888) received reports of more than 19,000 potential trafficking victims; 1,600 of those calls were made by health care and behavioral health professionals.
- A 2016 study found that 67.6% of survivors who experienced labor and sex trafficking had encountered a health care professional during the time they were experiencing human trafficking, yet none of them were identified as a victim during the encounter.
“In implementing these competencies as standard health professional education and practice, health systems will increase the likelihood of identification and referral, improve overall health outcomes, and prevent future exploitation and re-exploitation from occurring.”— Katherine Chon, director of the Office of Trafficking in Persons (OTIP)
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