Human trafficking is a crime against humanity; health professionals are a critical lifeline

We may think slavery is a thing of the past. But today and every day, an estimated 30 million women, children and men are the victims of human trafficking all over the world. Many are forced into prostitution and domestic servitude. Some are child soldiers or child brides. Others are coerced into inhumane working conditions. There are many forms of human trafficking but essentially it is a modern form of slavery in which individuals are held against their will and deprived of their basic freedoms.

Though we may think it only happens in far off corners of the globe, it also occurs right in our own backyard. Human trafficking has been reported in all of the seven states served by Providence St. Joseph Health. And the victims are often the most poor and vulnerable among us.

Many times, their only contact with outside professionals is when they face a serious medical issue and need to go to the emergency department or a primary care clinic. That makes health care professionals a critical lifeline.

Providence St. Joseph Health has always been committed to being a voice for the voiceless. That is why we proudly join Pope Francis and the Catholic Health Association in responding to the call to end human trafficking.

We have made the issue a priority for our organization and have established clinical protocols to identify and help victims of human trafficking in our emergency departments, urgent care centers and women's clinics. Our caregivers are being trained to recognize when patients may be the victims of human trafficking, how to have a conversation about it and how to connect them to help.

Pope Francis emphatically declared human trafficking a crime against humanity. "Every human being is a free person destined to live for the good of others in equality and fraternity," he said. "Any discriminatory relationship that does not respect the fundamental conviction that others are equal is a crime, and frequently an aberrant crime."

We must do everything we can to stand up for those who are unable to stand up for themselves, and help restore liberty and dignity for all.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and I encourage everyone to learn more about this important issue and what you can do to help. Here are some resources you may find useful.

Resources to learn more

Rod Hochman
Rod Hochman, M.D.