HHS launches innovation challenge to prevent human trafficking among women and girls

Aug. 3, 2023

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) Office on Women’s Health (OWH), is launching a new challenge worth up to $1.8 million to organizations with successful innovative and life-changing approaches to address human trafficking prevention among women and girls in the United States. The challenge was announced today at the HHS National Human Trafficking Prevention Summit.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline estimates that 26.7 million people were impacted globally by human trafficking in 2021. Human trafficking is a crime that exploits a person for compelled labor, services, or commercial sex acts.

The national competition will award programs that demonstrate effectiveness in preventing human trafficking and/or improving health outcomes related to human trafficking among women and girls, sustainable program practices, and the ability of the program to be expanded and/or replicated.

“Human trafficking disproportionately impacts some of the most vulnerable and underserved members of our society,” said ADM Rachel L. Levine, HHS Assistant Secretary for Health. “This challenge is one example of a multi-pronged national effort to prevent and end this abhorrent practice that destroys lives.”

The challenge was created in alignment with the priorities highlighted in the White House National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking - PDF and the National Plan to End Gender-Based Violence - PDF. It also supports the goals of the HHS Task Force to Prevent Human Trafficking.

While anyone can be a victim of human trafficking, Black, Latino, American Indian, Alaska Natives, Asians, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, LGBTQI+ individuals, people with disabilities and individuals with low income are among the populations that are most vulnerable to human trafficking. Migration or relocation, substance use, unstable housing, abuse, childhood trauma, and mental health issues can also increase the risk. Human trafficking can cause toxic stress that wears down immunity, contributing to risk of liver disease, chronic renal disease, and other autoimmune and neurological disorders. 

“Women and girls’ safety, health and wellbeing are significantly impacted by trafficking,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Women’s Health Dr. Dorothy Fink. “OWH is pleased to begin identifying and awarding programs that demonstrate effectiveness in preventing human trafficking and/or improving health outcomes related to trafficking among women and girls.”

The challenge has two phases. Phase 1 will award twenty $50,000 prizes to existing, innovative programs that have demonstrated outcomes in successfully preventing human trafficking and/or improving health outcomes related to human trafficking among women and girls.  Phase 2 will offer eight awards up to $100,000 that will go to the programs in Phase 1 that have successfully expanded and/or replicated to increase the impact of their program in preventing human trafficking and/or improving health outcomes related to human trafficking on women and girls.

The HHS Office for the Administration of Children and Families (ACF) Office of Trafficking in Persons (OTIP) provided expertise to create this challenge. For additional public resources, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline  at 1-888-373-7888, TTY: 711, Text* 233733. SOAR Online also provides resources for healthcare professionals.

HHS has the release.

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