National Symposium on the Health Needs of Human Trafficking Victims: Post-Symposium Brief. Research and Data


Ongoing research and comprehensive data regarding the health care needs of, and services available to, victims of human trafficking can help ensure services meet their health and mental health needs. Medical professionals, social service providers, and researchers in the anti-trafficking movement expressed concern that no data tracking systems exist to accurately evaluate current health service delivery systems for victims of human trafficking. They noted this deficiency at both the local and national levels. Social service providers agreed lack of data not only hindered assessment of services they provide, but also impeded funding to enhance services as government and non-government funders request data to demonstrate victims needs for services and agency needs for financial support. Yet they cannot obtain data without funding to build data infrastructure and conduct research. One health care provider working with this population suggested instituting a public health task force to assist with data collection for victims services.

Social service providers and researchers affiliated with universities reported working jointly on research projects to assess health needs and services for victims of human trafficking, but they agreed that an overall infrastructure for data collection is lacking in the anti-trafficking field. All attendees acknowledged that data collection is an enormous challenge given service providers limited time availability and lack of expertise in developing and implementing data collection systems.

In addition to data collection and evaluation of services, symposium attendees identified other areas in which further research is needed:

  • Demand reduction programs
  • Societal factors promoting solicitation of commercial sex
  • Typologies of traffickers
  • Typologies of the consumer or end user (e.g., johns, employers)
  • Economic factors involved in trafficking
  • Health consequences of labor trafficking in the United States
  • Financial impact of human trafficking in terms of health and mental health services
  • Public health impact of human trafficking in the United States
  • Role of resiliency among victims
  • Protective factors for vulnerable populations
  • Best practices for treating victims of human trafficking

Attendees agreed that human trafficking is more likely to be eliminated or reduced if the motives of traffickers and other exploiters (e.g., johns, employers, relatives) can be understood and their activities prevented. They also cited the importance of integrating public awareness and corporate responsibility into preventing labor trafficking. Representatives of anti-trafficking organizations and service providers working with trafficking victims commented that they were not fully aware of best practices being implemented by other anti-trafficking organizations and recommended an improved infrastructure for sharing information. They suggested starting with a listserv that included symposium attendees to begin building a community of practice for information sharing.

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