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Doctors Should Have Formal Education On Human Trafficking

human traffickingBy Brad Broker

Prostitution, starvation, forced labor, physical abuse — these are the symptoms and effects of human trafficking.  And who are most likely to encounter these victims while they are currently enslaved? Doctors.

Studies have shown that between 50 to 100 percent of surveyed trafficking survivors reported having received medical care when they were enslaved.

“Health care professionals are well positioned to be first responders for victims of human trafficking who present to the health care setting,” said Aimee M. Grace, MD, MPH, Children’s National Health System, and colleagues in a new position paper in the current issue of JAMA Internal Medicine. “The opportunity exists for medical schools, residency programs, health professional organizations and societies, and national regulatory bodies to ensure that human trafficking education becomes part of medical school instruction and residency training.”

According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), human trafficking is the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power.” Recent studies have reported 83% of sexual trafficking victims are U.S. citizens and 95% of labor victims are foreign born.

While current resources for trafficking education include “online PowerPoint presentations and training modules, handbooks, articles, tool kits, issue briefs, and websites, (some of which provide continuing medical education credits),” the authors suggest, however, that “there does exist a need for further development of formal, evidence-based curricula.”

The Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education lists the following for Common Program Requirements: “Residents must demonstrate knowledge of established and evolving biomedical, clinical, epidemiological and social- behavioral sciences, as well as the application of this knowledge to patient care,” a category in which human trafficking would certainly fall, say the authors.

“Ideally, an appropriate curriculum on human trafficking and health care would include information about the prevalence, health effects, and signs of human trafficking, appropriate interviewing techniques using a trauma-informed approach, and potential responses to disclosures, including referral to any needed services and provision of appropriate resources,” said Grace and colleagues.

(Photo by Imagens Evangélicas via Flickr)

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