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Human Trafficking Partnership

Human Trafficking Research Project

The University of Kansas Medical Center has partnered with Operation Underground Railroad and the American Correctional Association to better understand and prevent human trafficking.

The organizations will combine their shared expertise and research to study the risks and protective factors which will lead to the development of prevention and intervention programs. Their work will help law enforcement, healthcare providers and other stakeholders to be able to better identify perpetrators and help victims.

"This partnership is groundbreaking because it will empower our society to truly end human trafficking by understanding what leads a person to be a trafficker," said Jerry Gowen, executive director of Operation Underground Railroad. "If we can stop the perpetrator before they act, we can break the chain of events and prevent our most vulnerable from being violated in the first place. This research on perpetrators will help us develop the education programs and identification tools to support our ongoing rescue and rehabilitation efforts."

"Human trafficking, the forced exploitation of others, typically for labor or sexual purposes, is a modern form of slavery and a serious public health issue," said Barry Browning, senior administrator for the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health in the KU School of Medicine. "Victims experience injuries, infections, untreated chronic disease, and mental health problems. Their families face trauma of separation, social stigma and multigenerational health effects. Kansas' location in the center of the country and at the crossroads of major interstate highways makes it a major hub for trafficking activity."

"The American Correctional Association is unique in seeing victims and perpetrators in our correctional systems," said James A. Gondles, executive director of the American Correctional Association.  "Correctional intervention through treatment for both victims and perpetrators may well lead to prevention in the future."

The Department of Family Medicine and Community Health in the KU School of Medicine, will use its background in health education, community-based research and collaboration to create tools and protocols to assist healthcare providers in identifying potential human trafficking victims and perpetrators in a healthcare setting. The department also will work to educate the medical community and the general public.

"The reason healthcare plays such an important role in this collaboration is because human trafficking is a public health epidemic.  If we do not identify, educate and stop this disease in its tracks, the incidence will continue to escalate," Browning said. "Human trafficking is already the fastest growing form of international crime, and it is estimated that there are more than 40 million modern day slaves internationally, while two million children are sexually exploited in the multibillion-dollar commercial sex industry." 

Last modified: Oct 05, 2020