National Symposium on the Health Needs of Human Trafficking Victims: Post-Symposium Brief. Introduction


On September 22 - 23, 2008, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sponsored a national symposium focused on the health needs of human trafficking victims.[1] This symposium developed from an exploratory study, funded by ASPE, examining how HHS programs are addressing the needs of victims of human trafficking. This symposium brought together health care workers and members of the anti-human trafficking community to discuss trafficking victims health needs, how best to identify victims in health care settings, and ways that the health care system can provide improved and effective health care services to this population.

More than 150 experts and professionals from a variety of fields attended the symposium. Attendees included directors of national medical  associations; program directors of hospitals located in communities highly affected by human trafficking; medical personnel working in clinics and organizations serving victims of human trafficking; executive directors of anti-trafficking organizations; and government officials from HHS, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Agency for International Development, and U.S. Congress.

The symposium was organized in five major panel sessions, each of which ended with a discussion among attendees and panelists. Session 1, Introduction to Trafficking as a Health Issue, provided an overview of the issue including the role of various government agencies working to combat human trafficking, major cases prosecuted by the Department of Justice, certification of international victims by the Office of Refugee Resettlement within HHS, and the major health consequences of human trafficking. Session 2, Encountering Victims: Identification, Disclosure, and Other Issues, took a closer look at victims of human trafficking, challenges in identifying victims, key indicators to improve identification, how victims present themselves to health care settings, and how the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act might affect services to this population.  Sessions 3 and 4 focused on Health Service Provision to Victims, examined the physical, emotional, and mental health issues affecting this population, public health concerns resulting from human trafficking, medical services currently available, and additional resources needed to improve service delivery. In Session 5, Lessons Learned and Promising Practices, agencies successfully treating the physical and mental health needs of human trafficking victims described their programs and promising practices.

This brief presents an overview of the major topic areas discussed during the National Symposium on the Health Needs of Human Trafficking Victims. The brief focuses primarily on the post-session discussions and suggestions to improve the delivery of health services to victims. Most of the presentations, as well as the symposium agenda, are available at[2]

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