Training to Spot Human Trafficking Urged for Pharmacists, ED Workers


The literature review indicated that there was a significant need for human trafficking (HT) training within emergency departments (ED) and pharmacy school curriculum.

There is a significant need for human trafficking (HT) training within pharmacy school curriculum and emergency departments (ED), according to researcher Macy England, 2020 PharmD Candidate, Belmont University College of Pharmacy.

England presented her research during a poster session at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) Summer Meeting in Boston. According to her presentation, “Impact and Necessity of Human Trafficking Training in the ED and Pharmacy School Curriculum,” there were over 10,600 HT victims in the year 2017 who were reported to the National Hotline and BeFree Textline.

During captivity, HT victims are exposed to a variety of physical ailments and conditions, and over 88% of victims seek medical attention at some point in their captivity, two-thirds being in an emergency department, according to England.

“I believe that ED workers and pharmacists have the highest chance of encountering these victims,” said England in an interview with Pharmacy Times. “Yet, health care workers across the board are not educated on how to recognize the crime. And, because they’re not recognizing it, they’re not reporting it.”

In order to determine the potential impact of HT training on the recognition and knowledge of HT amongst ED health care professionals, England conducted a targeted literature review for primary literature articles discussing the impact of HT training. The review included the following 2 studies:

In a randomized control trial of 20 EDs in the San Francisco Bay area, 258 ED health care professionals were placed in an intervention group, which included HT training with background information, relevance to health care, clinical signs of HT, and resources to report HT; and a delayed intervention group, which included a pre-test, along with a post-test in order to determine the impact.

The results, published in Pediatric Emergency Care, indicated that after taking the training, approximately 91% of ED professionals in the intervention group knew the importance of recognition, and 100% knew who to call in case they came in contact with a HT victim. In the delayed intervention group, there was a 30% increase of knowledge the importance of recognition, and a 15% increase in knowing who to call.

The first study showed that after the implementation of a HT training the health care professionals ability to recognize and report HT drastically increased.

The other cross-sectional study involved 219 pharmacy students, in which each student received a 17- question survey to first, second, and third year pharmacy students. The questions were designed to assess the student’s baseline knowledge of HT and include the categories: types of HT, HT and health, and attitude about HT.

The survey found that only 14% of pharmacy students knew the warning signs of HT, and approximately 13% knew the age group of victims. Published in the journal Value in Health, these results indicate that pharmacists are in a unique position to identify HT; however, the current training is insufficient.

“Pharmacists are the most accessible health care providers out there,” said England. “[The research] not only applies to them within the hospital, but in the clinic or the community setting. If these patients are going to EDs, they are definitely going to pharmacies to pick up antibiotics or pain medications.”

To England, a typical HT training course in a pharmacy school would be a generalized guide on the signs-to-look-out for, utilizing statistics on age, race, ethnicity, etc. in order that pharmacy students know what victims might look like visibly. Most importantly, she said, it would include the hotline for the National Human Trafficking Hotline, and information on how to report.

“If pharmacists were aware that this is going on in front of them, then they would be inspired to look up what training they can do or how they can be used to stop this crime.”

To report human trafficking, call (888) 373-7888 or text 233733.


England, Macy. Impact and Necessity of Human Trafficking Training in the ED and Pharmacy School Curriculum. Poster session presented at: American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Summer Meeting. 2019, June 9-1 Boston, MA.

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