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Dignity Health Leads in the Fight Against Human Trafficking

SAN FRANCISCO, CA. – May 16 Dignity Health, one of the nation's largest health systems, announced today it has published online information about its successful Human Trafficking Response (HTR) Program, including internal victim response procedures to encourage other health systems and hospitals to implement similar programs to protect and support trafficked persons identified in the health care setting.   

The National Human Trafficking Hotline recently reported 7,500 tips of human trafficking in 2016 — up from approximately 5,500 in the previous year, and the U.S, Department of Defense calls the activity the world’s fastest-growing crime. Studies have shown that health care providers can play an important role in intervention. Nearly 88 percent of sex trafficking survivors reported having some kind of contact with the health care system while they were trafficked, according to a study in the Annals of Health Law. 

“Trafficked persons are often overlooked even though most survivors report that they have visited a health care setting at least once while being trafficked,” said Holly Gibbs, Director of the Dignity Health HTR Program and human trafficking survivor. “Dignity Health has developed a victim-centered, trauma-informed program based on actual cases because we believe that health care providers can provide a critical step in identifying and supporting trafficked persons. Our goal is to share our best practices with other systems so that one day human trafficking response programs like ours will be a standard offering at all hospitals and health care facilities across the country.”

Dignity Health hopes its guidelines will make it easier for more hospitals and health care systems to identify and support trafficked persons. The health system launched its HTR Program in 2014 across its system to educate staff, implement protocols, and strengthen communities against human trafficking. It created educational modules and victim response procedures that engage not only hospital staff and physicians, but also first responders and the community to build a strong multi-agency resource network to prevent exploitation, support trafficked persons, and empower survivors. Another key component to Dignity Health’s HTR program is addressing underlying issues that contribute to vulnerability, including identifying and supporting vetted programs, advocates, and service providers in the community that help support survivors. In Fiscal Year 2016 alone, Dignity Health staff identified at least 31 persons with high or moderate indicator levels of human trafficking victimization. 

“To effectively respond to human trafficking, the response must go beyond educating staff to identify and respond to trafficked persons,” said Page West, Dignity Health Senior Vice President of Patient Care Services and System Chief Nursing Executive. “Our program is unique because we are taking into consideration the entire care continuum. Holly’s experience and knowledge as a survivor are invaluable as we look to address the unmet needs of trafficked victims.” 

This program has been implemented in nearly 40 Dignity Health hospitals across three states. Program implementation began in emergency departments, followed by labor and delivery and postpartum departments. The program is now being implemented system-wide in each acute care facility, and the health system’s program leadership is now working to establish education and procedures for clinic settings, including physicians’ offices, residency clinics, community centers, outreach sites, and a sexual assault treatment center. 

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked in countries around the world, including the U.S. 

For more information on Dignity Health’s HTR program, please visit

About Dignity Health

Dignity Health, one of the nation’s largest health care systems, is a 21-state network of more than 9,000 physicians, 59,000 employees, and 400 care centers, including hospitals, urgent and occupational care, imaging centers, home health, and primary care clinics. Headquartered in San Francisco, Dignity Health is dedicated to providing compassionate, high-quality, and affordable patient-centered care with special attention to the poor and underserved. In FY16, Dignity Health provided $2.2 billion in charitable care and services. For more information, please visit our website at You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

With reports of human trafficking on the rise, the health system is publishing its Human Trafficking Response Program resources to encourage other hospitals to help end modern slavery

Publish date: 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017