Human Trafficking: The Role of the Health Care Provider

Tiffany Dovydaitis, RN, WHCNP


J Midwifery Womens Health. 2010;55(5):462-467. 

In This Article


The above case study serves as one example of how a trafficking victim might be completely missed or identified and assisted. The story of S.M. is not uncommon, and clinicians must consider the varied ways in which a trafficking victim might present in the clinic, at the office, in the hospital, or in the community. There are no easy answers, and the process is more likely to be frustratingly long and complicated than straightforward and simple.

The same complexities that exist in the clinical setting also make research in this area difficult. The population is hard to find because of its underground nature, and most studies have very small sample sizes. The involvement of organized crime can also make it a dangerous research topic. Because trafficking happens among men, women, and children in just about every country in the world, generalizability is problematic.[28] Even the definition of trafficking is sometimes contentious among researchers. The exact numbers of trafficked persons are only estimates, and in many cases the statistics are provided without explanation as to methods used to obtain them.[28] Both methodologic and ethical issues are complex, whether researching the trafficking victim or the trafficker.

If research in this area is to progress, the multiple disciplines that study trafficking issues will need to work together and develop a consistent theoretical framework with which to address the problem.[28] Governments and law enforcement agencies should share trafficking data with researchers so that larger studies can be conducted. Research on traffickers themselves should be developed.[29] Agencies that work with trafficking victims should work with researchers to develop best practices for the treatment of these individuals.


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