Modern slavery is a global public health concern
| Health professionals are well placed to identify and advocate for victims
| British Medical Journal – Modern slavery is a global public health concern, yet health professionals are often unaware of what it is, what it looks like, who it affects, and what, if anything, they can do about it.
There were over 40 million victims worldwide in 2016, with every region affected.
It is a largely hidden crime, but one hidden in plain sight.
It thrives on human vulnerability, such as where there is poverty or people escaping war.
It is evident in our local communities in places such as car washes, beauty salons, farms, and factories.
Modern slavery—which is often called and is inclusive of human trafficking—is an umbrella term that includes:
- the recruitment, movement, harbouring, or receiving of children, women, or men
- the use of force, coercion, abuse of vulnerability, deception, or other means for the purposes of exploitation.
It includes holding a person in a position of slavery, servitude, or forced or compulsory labour, or facilitating their travel with the intention of exploiting them soon after. (Story continues below … )
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It includes sex trafficking, forced labour, forced criminality, domestic servitude, and forced marriage.
Modern slavery is a gross manifestation of social and economic inequality that violates basic rights, including a right to health.
Complex comorbidities are characteristic of this population; survivors are at high risk of physical injury, exposure to infectious diseases, suicide, restricted access to healthcare, and serious mental health problems.
While modern slavery has been considered mainly a law enforcement matter, clinicians should also be concerned because many victims seek health care at some point during their exploitation.
Healthcare professionals also occupy a trusted, privileged position with unrivaled access to vulnerable populations; these advantages can be mobilised to protect exploited patients and prevent harm. Read more.