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Human Trafficking in Wisconsin: The Physician’s Role in Ending Modern Day Slavery

Last Updated: August 2, 2021


Introduction: Human trafficking is the second most lucrative criminal industry in the world, profiting $44 billion/year. Over 28 million people are trafficked worldwide, in which most victims enter “the life” at 12-14 years old and only live for approximately 7 more years. A physician encounters at least 1 victim during their career, thus physicians play a pivotal role in identifying and helping victims. Every county in Wisconsin has had reports of human trafficking, however, since Wisconsin does not mandate training in human trafficking, many physicians lack the confidence and knowledge to help victims. Methods: OBGYN, Family Medicine, and Emergency/Urgent Care physicians in the Wisconsin Medical Society completed questions regarding their demographics. Then, they completed a pre-self-assessment regarding their knowledge and confidence in human trafficking protocols. They completed a quiz about basic knowledge regarding human trafficking. Finally, they read a short educational article and afterwards completed the same self-assessment and quiz. Results: Most physicians have not received training specific to human trafficking but are familiar with their local resources. Their understanding of human trafficking and confidence to treat/help a victim improved after reading the article. Most physicians were unwilling to complete an online training course in human trafficking, even with CME credit as a reward. Conclusions: Overall, most physicians lack the knowledge and confidence to help victims of human trafficking, but this can be improved with education. Wisconsin should mandate training specific to human trafficking for all healthcare workers. 


Marissa Cepress, M.D. Candidate, Medical College of Wisconsin (mcepress@mcw.edu)