Health research with trafficked populations

Research suggests there is a high prevalence of both mental and physical health issues within trafficked populations…

With increasing transnational migration and rapid globalization, trafficking in people has become increasingly important at both a national and international scale.

Research suggests there is a high prevalence of both mental and physical health issues within trafficked populations, including PTSD, depression and HIV as a result of their trafficking experience.

As estimates of the global scope of human trafficking range from 275,068 to 2 million, this is a major public health concern. Understanding and documenting these public health consequences through health research is imperative at both an individual and at a population level.

Health research in this area involves numerous ethical challenges such as ensuring participant autonomy, confidentiality, safety, and representativeness. Currently, there is a dearth of research that explores the experience and perception of the ethical issues involved in conducting research with trafficked populations.

Documenting these issues from the viewpoint of researchers and health service providers will allow identification of the causes and conditions under, which ethical challenges arise and how to best approach them. This data can then help to protect vulnerable participants and improve both the quality of research and inform appropriate service provision.

People who have been trafficked have had their human rights violated and it is imperative that their rights not be further violated in the research process. This requires thoughtful consideration of ethics at all stages of the research process to ensure participants have their rights protected and can begin the healing process.

Development of a research ethics framework for use with this population will not only improve the quality of research but also develop an ethically evidence-base on which to build service provision and policy decisions for people who have been trafficked.