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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Medical professionals can help fight modern-day slavery

Modern-day slavery, or human trafficking, is rampant in the Democratic Republic of Congo, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Iran, and government officials in these countries are doing little to prevent it, according to a just-released U.S. State Department report.
The Trafficking in Persons Report is the most comprehensive worldwide report on the efforts of governments to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons. The report evaluates and ranks efforts by 184 governments worldwide to fight sexual exploitation, forced labor and modern-day slavery.
For years I have urged U.S. government officials to more aggressively engage the medical community in the fight against human trafficking. Medical professionals may encounter ailing trafficking victims who are brought in by their captors who are concerned only in restoring the health and therefore profitability of the "merchandise." Yet many healthcare professionals do not know how to recognize the signs of victims or how to report suspected cases of human trafficking.
To increase awareness in the medical community, I have urged U.S. government officials at State, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security to hold a White House summit on health and human trafficking. The summit would serve to encourage top officials from medical specialty organizations to educate their members about recognizing, reporting and treating trafficking victims. In this way, hundreds of thousands of healthcare professionals could be educated at no cost to the taxpayer. The best benefit, of course, would be the recognition, rescue and rehabilitation of many more trafficking victims.

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