Assistant Secretary Johnson Speaks at Prevalence Reduction Innovation Forum

June 2, 2020

The Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons partnered with the University of Georgia’s African Programming and Research Initiative to End Slavery (APRIES) to award grants to researchers to field test prevalence methodologies in Pakistan, Tunisia, Tanzania, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Morocco. Field testing prevalence methodologies is the first step in understanding which approaches would work best to estimate the magnitude of human trafficking in this hard-to-reach population. The Department of State invested $5 million into this project and the Office on Trafficking in Persons (OTIP) has invested $2 million into the domestic prevalence estimation effort through a contract managed by the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation.

The University of Georgia and the U.S. Department of State co-hosted the Prevalence Reduction Innovation Forum (PRIF) on May 20, 2020, a virtual gathering of leaders, researchers, and policy experts from around the world to discuss human trafficking prevalence estimation methods. The presenters, who represented six research groups, discussed proposed approaches for prevalence estimation of different types of human trafficking, including domestic servitude, forced labor in the agriculture industry, and child sex trafficking.

Lynn Johnson, Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, delivered the following prepared introductory remarks at the PRIF:

I would like to thank Ambassador Richmond and Principal Deputy Director Woolf for their commitment to advancing the knowledge base and identifying effective methodologies to estimate the prevalence of human trafficking domestically and abroad.

Since 2001, HHS has joined our federal partners to fund a range of topics to better understand human trafficking victimization and effective responses. This includes service needs and barriers for victims, best practices for victim assistance and survivor engagement, and strategies to address demand and risk factors for human trafficking to inform primary prevention efforts.

We are proud to continue these interagency collaborations in response to President Trump’s Executive Order on Combating Human Trafficking and Online Child Exploitation in the United States. This calls on our three departments to conduct research assessing the methodologies to estimate the prevalence of human trafficking within specific sectors or regions.

Over the last fifteen years, HHS funded research on human trafficking, contributing to at least 34 publications in peer-reviewed journals. The anti-trafficking research findings are available on ACF’s website, as well as on PubMed Central, a digital archive of federally funded biomedical and public health research.

In regards to HHS efforts to strengthen prevalence research, we recognize the importance of strengthening anti-trafficking data to contribute to rigorous prevalence studies. In the last few years, the ACF Office on Trafficking in Persons has worked with federal, state, and local partners:

Established uniform data elements across OTIP’s anti-trafficking victim assistance programs by adapting data standards proposed by a national technical working group of experts.

Supported integration of human trafficking data elements into existing HHS databases, including the Runaway and Homeless Youth-Homeless Management Information System (RHY-HMIS), the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10).

Modernized case management system through the development of Shepherd. This is an online platform that provides a streamlined way for individuals to request assistance for victims of human trafficking, facilitates secure transmission of information for case processing and service referrals, strengthens data privacy, security, and provides confidentiality protection related to issuance of HHS Certification, Interim Assistance, and Eligibility letters.

Identified possibilities for interoperability including through the development of standards for human trafficking data elements in the human services domain of the National Information Exchange Model.

Moving beyond data collection, ACF also supported our partners at the HHS Office on Women’s Health last year in collaboration with the National Academies of Sciences. We worked to host a two-day workshop on Estimating the Prevalence of Human Trafficking in the United States. This event highlighted innovative approaches and sampling methods that can be used to estimate human trafficking prevalence within industries and locations across the United States. Links to the workshop proceeding recordings and reports published by the National Academies of Science is available on OTIP’s website. We hope that the information will be helpful to those who participate in today’s forum.  

The ACF Office on Planning, Research, and Evaluation recently awarded a contract to RTI to field test prevalence methodologies in the United States. This project will build on a systematic review of prevalence methods on human trafficking in the U.S. and select methods for field testing within industries impacted by human trafficking (for example, child care, agriculture, construction, or illicit activities), aligning with the Department of State’s statistical definition, indicators, and processes wherever possible. Findings will be captured in a final report and distributed widely to reach the research community.

HHS welcomes this opportunity to complement the Department of State’s international prevalence effort and looks forward to working with the Department of Justice in coordinating on our domestic activities. 

We are excited to learn from each of the presenters today and all of the shared expertise in the room as we work together to make a collective impact that will be felt throughout the anti-trafficking research community.


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