Statement of purpose Human trafficking is the trade/exploitation of humans, for forced labour, servitude, sex work, or sexual gratification of others. Often framed as a legal or social issue, it is also a public health issue, a perspective offering the prospect of using a risk-factor approach, as well as providing victim-oriented services.
Minnesota’s Safe Harbour for Sexually Exploited Youth Law (2011) ensures that sexually exploited juveniles are treated as victims/survivors and directed to supportive services. Administered through the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), we needed to establish uniform case definitions for reports by service providers, and for establishing public health surveillance.
Methods/Approach We developed a four-type definition, modelled after similar case definitions used by MDH for epidemiologic surveillance of violence. The four-types of the definition, developed in close partnership with service providers, were:
Results After several meetings with partners, a conceptual case definition was established. Because of inconsistencies in state/federal statutes, it was not possible to establish a legal case definition. The operational case definition was developed along with the software development for reporting by service providers. The record review case definition reflected the realities of how cases are not only identified by the service providers, but also by other agencies such as law enforcement of child protective services. Each type of case definition will be provided during the presentation.
Conclusions Human trafficking is receiving increasing attention by the public health community. It was possible to develop case definitions for sexually exploited youth; the definitions established should facilitate the implementation of the Minnesota Safe Harbour program by MDH, as well as establish a basis for future public health surveillance.
Significance and contribution to the field A public health’s focus on identifying risk factors can help identify vulnerability and facilitate earlier interventions that reach at-risk individuals before traffickers do. Establishing and sharing case definitions for sexually exploited youth will help the public health community better respond to the problem of human trafficking.
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