Workshops help empower health care providers to make a difference for human trafficking survivors

(February 2017) SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Dignity Health Foundation was honored to receive a grant in 2016 from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation to present four workshops on human trafficking education and outreach to health care providers. These half-day workshops raised the level of awareness and preparation among hundreds of Bay Area nurses, doctors, medical assistants, social workers, mental health staff, chaplains, EMTs, and city and county public health staff working in a range of settings. Participants shared our training materials with even greater numbers of their colleagues, producing a pronounced multiplier effect.

Workshops were presented in: Redwood City, Salinas, Mountain View, and San Francisco. Our partners’ generosity with respect to providing venues and covering other costs enabled us to channel grant support into developing the workshop model and initial efforts to refine the training toolkit for human trafficking survivors serving as lead trainers. As part of this innovative, sector-leading work, Program Director Holly Gibbs has honed her educational approach to become even more effective in guiding local, regional, and national health care providers interested in replicating Dignity Health's Human Trafficking Response Program.

Highlights from the project include:

  • Identifying and responding to a clear demand for this type of education, and strong interest among individuals to transform their own practice, and that of their care setting, to best identify and care for trafficking survivors.

  • Experimentation to develop best practices for recruiting attendees, structure and content, follow-up with attendees, and choice of speakers to create an effective, replicable model.

  • Developing partnerships with anti-human trafficking coalitions, community-based organizations, community-clinic consortia, departments of public health, and other stakeholders; creating resource lists for Santa Clara, San Mateo, and San Francisco County.

  • Helping health care providers understand the role of trauma-informed, patient-centered care in building trust and listening and communicating effectively with this complex patient population, and the relevance of this training for all patients.

  • Creating the first federal government/health care partnership to present the Department of Health and Human Services SOAR (Stop, Observe, Ask, Respond) curriculum; modifying that curriculum for national use, and introducing the first-person survivor account to underscore health care providers’ critical role in combatting trafficking.

Participants had the following observations after attending the workshop:

“It's [trafficking] happening here. Look for it. Have a low index of suspicion. Reach out to community resources.”

“Don't worry so much about perfect success/rescue stories, but remember the power of planting seeds and showing concern for safety.”

“The power we have as health care providers to make a difference in peoples' lives. We can screen patients better with confidence and compassion for their situation.”

“. . . I am anxious to start spreading the word in our clinic.”


Learn more about the Human Trafficking Response Program and how you can support it here.