Honors Thesis Spotlight: International Public Health: Human Trafficking in Florida

            Miami, Florida experiences some of the highest levels of human trafficking: an epidemic that runs rampant through the state, country, and globe. Legislative bodies around the world are desperately seeking solutions. Minnesota offers a model that all countries should consider, and it’s a model that Florida could adhere to in the near future. Minnesota successfully treats human trafficking with the severity of a public health issue, such as drunk-driving, smoking, and AIDS/HIV. The state of Florida needs to develop legislation to prevent human trafficking, and looking to Minnesota as an effective model is a great start.

            The author collects a diverse dataset to analyze the Minnesota model, including interviews with nonprofit organizations, two professional researchers, the department of health, and another governmental organization. After describing these interviews and their implications, the author formulates six policy recommendations for the Florida         The definition of human trafficking is a primary focus in the literature review. Since the amount of force and coercion differ, statistics on the epidemic differ as well. The United Nations, for instance, only reports that 18% of human trafficking cases are due to forced labor while the International Labor Organization reports 18% due to forced labor. The author’s literature review further captures the reality of the situation. Survivors of trafficking incidents encounter roadblocks when looking for help and support, during and after these situations. After exploitation ends, victims have a hard time integrating back into society and it is not made easier with the lack of information and understanding the Florida government provides. This is where Minnesota offers a different approach. In Minnesota, the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota began a public health campaign called Minnesota Women and Girls are Not for Sale. This public health campaign helps gather information, provide housing, and offer resources and tools to help healthcare workers and other officials identify a human trafficking situation.  In addition to this organization, Minnesota also has the safe harbours and a No Wrong Door laws, which help in the seeking of help and protect for a victim of human trafficking.

After conducting the interviews, the researcher finds that although the Minnesota human trafficking laws are more advanced, it is still not close to perfect. The Minnesota state legislature fails to include native american residents of which are already disproportionately affected by the practice. It also excludes men and members of the LGBTQA+ community as it aims to protect cisgendered women and children. However, because of its underground and secretive nature, human trafficking numbers of groups missing and included in Minnesota legislature are rough estimates and not precise.

            The author proposes six recommendations. First, the government should consider implementing a standardized data-sharing system across Florida. This will require a standard definition of human trafficking across the state which will improve accurate reporting and prevention measures. Second, conducting a benefit-cost analysis of human trafficking in Florida could be impactful. Third, the state could implement a No Wrong Door Model for human trafficking. Following Minnesota’s model, the program can train service providers and also provide help to survivors in need. Fourth, create a research-based public health campaign promoting prevention and identification of trafficking in Florida. Florida has already had great success with its prevention campaigns as Tobacco-Free Florida is responsible for a 4% decrease of smokers since it began. This success can be transferable to human trafficking campaigns if applied. Fifth, the state could fund training at Florida Department of Health Regional health clinics in trafficking prevention and response. The Department of Health should provide local officials and health care workers with the resources they need to identify a human trafficking situation and how to report it to the correct officials without causing harm to the victim. Lastly,, Florida should authorize the Florida Department of Health to implement a public health approach to human trafficking. Human trafficking should be a priority for the department of health in order for it to be known as a public health issue statewide. Ultimately, human trafficking being seen as a public health issue is beneficial not only to the victims of human trafficking but to the state of Florida and all its constituents.

Leah Renee Singleton graduated from the College of Social Sciences at Florida State University. This post is based on Leah’s honors thesis, written by COSSPP blog intern Camila Levy. You can learn more about Leah  here. You can learn more about this project here.

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