Human Trafficking

Today’s guest blog comes to us from our friends at the Human Dignity Conference, which will be held in Mesa on August 6-7th, 2018. Please take a moment to read more on this incredibly important issue. We’d also love to hear your thoughts on what can be done to help. Generating meaningful conversations around the health issues affecting the people of our state is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

Commercial sexual exploitation is now being treated as a public health crisis and has become a topic of research and debate across all sectors.  Although there is limited data to quantify the exact number of human trafficking incidences, we know that the sex trafficking of adults and minors happens and has devastating physical and mental health consequences on victims.  The reality is that trafficked victims often endure physical violence and neglect and are likely to present for medical care at some point during their abuse. It can be difficult to detect unless people who interact with victims are trained to recognize the signs.

According to available research, human trafficking in Arizona seems to have increased dramatically in the past 15 years.  Whether the increase is due to increased awareness and reporting, or other factors, human trafficking is still a vastly under-reported crime.  A recent incidence report conducted by the Arizona State University Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention and Research identified over 550 minors and 1800 adult victims served in 2015 and 2016.  These numbers mean that a minor victim of sex trafficking is identified in Arizona every single day, and two adult victims are identified each day. (ASU STIR, 2018) Sadly, many victims go unidentified by law enforcement, but may seek health care at some point during their victimization.   Most health care providers have a limited understanding of the issues of both labor and sex trafficking and how it may present with their patients.  Furthermore, many health care providers feel uncomfortable with their knowledge level and ability to recognize the physical and mental signs of trafficking.

A 2017 survey report from the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST) found that over half of labor and sex trafficking survivors surveyed had accessed health care at least once while being trafficked. Nearly 97 percent indicated they had never been provided with information or resources about human trafficking while visiting the health care provider.

In the 2017 Youth Experiences Study in Arizona 53.5% of the respondents had a current medical problem, with 11.8% reporting a current dental issue. Medical problems included the following: asthma, vision issues, chronic pain, sexually transmitted infections, open wounds, skin problems and broken bones. Dignity Health in Arizona has identified at least 31 persons who exhibited high or moderate indicators of human trafficking victimization during fiscal year 2016 through their human trafficking response program.

All Health Care providers in Arizona are invited to attend a shared learnings conference on the topic of human trafficking August 6-7, 2018 in Mesa, Arizona.  This event is specifically designed for health care professionals and first responders, and will cover such issues as dispelling myths and misconceptions, trauma informed approaches to violence prevention and intervention, longitudinal health services for human trafficking survivors, human trafficking in Indian Country, the intersection of human trafficking and the opioid crisis, the critical role of EMS first responders, the unique case of male victims, and care for caregivers.

For more information or to register, please visit:

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