A public health approach recognizes that interrelated violence and systemic inequities are influenced by social determinants of health—circumstances in which people are born, grow up, live, and work that affect health. By understanding how social determinants of health correlate to populations at highest risk, you can use the information to inform your service delivery approach.
Many social and economic determinants of health can increase an individual’s vulnerability to human trafficking. Awareness of these determinants allows us to create interventions to prevent and reduce trafficking. The final step in a public health approach is to determine how to use these interventions and determine their effectiveness.
Human trafficking is not an isolated incident. Upstream determinants—such as domestic violence, substance use, poverty, and immigration status—may put some individuals at a higher risk of trafficking than others. A public health approach to trafficking encourages communities to move upstream to identify preventive measures that reduce vulnerabilities to human trafficking and minimize long-term impacts of trauma. When combined with downstream interventions like victim identification, service provision, health care, behavioral health treatment, and criminal investigations, these efforts can combine to decrease the number of individuals who experience trafficking.
Here are a few practical ways you can use the social determinants of health related to human trafficking to inform your service delivery approach:
- Partner with organizations that specialize in serving at-risk populations (i.e., referrals, inform organizational policies and procedures, educate staff about serving the population).
- Develop an outreach plan that includes targeted messaging for at-risk populations.
- Ensure services are culturally and linguistically appropriate and reflect the unique needs of at-risk populations.
- Train staff to be aware of factors that may increase risk of trafficking and how to look for those factors when screening.
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