Explore This Center

Overview

The Center for Social Justice and Health Equity at Massachusetts General Hospital is dedicated to the advancement of unbiased health care among underserved patient populations. We hope to achieve our mission of fostering more inclusive health care, social policy and practice through leadership in key areas such as:

  • Advocacy of health care, social policies and practices that are inclusive of all patient populations, with particular attention to the health-related social needs (HRSN) of underserved communities
  • Educating all health care leaders interested in working with community members to integrate effective solutions into everyday practice
  • Public health and health services research that minimize vulnerabilities and produce innovative solutions for the stigmatizing social conditions that impact underserved patient populations
  • Quality improvement initiatives, such as the Mass General Freedom Clinic and Human Trafficking Initiative, that employ evidence-based programs to address the HRSNs of underserved patient populations and narrow the gap in health outcomes

Our vision is to promote a health care system that responds to the wide-ranging needs of the diverse communities that we serve.

Focus Areas

The primary areas of ongoing effort for members of the center include:

  • HRSNs such as health literacy, health outcome disparities, housing instability and substance use disorders
  • Injury prevention with particular attention paid to incidents related to firearms and suicide
  • Interpersonal violence, which covers all aspects from domestic to community violence as well as human trafficking and sexual abuse
  • Professional diversity and inclusion such as workforce development, retention and recruitment and initiatives related to women in the workplace
  • Underserved populations including LGBTQ, hostage recovery care (Mass General Freedom Clinic), immigrant health and homeless groups

Human Trafficking

The Mass General Human Trafficking Initiative (HTI) was launched in 2008 to raise awareness of human trafficking as a public health issue and advance anti-trafficking efforts in research, education, policy and clinical care within the health sector. From 2008-2010, HTI completed nine social-science research case studies on human trafficking in the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil and the Philippines. Our research examined local public health responses to sex trafficking of women and girls in order to understand the health sector’s role in mitigating the health effects of trafficking.

HTI has built on its research by developing an evidence-based training on human trafficking for multidisciplinary health care audiences with the goal of heightening awareness, improving victim identification and developing trauma-informed responses that address the complex health and social needs of trafficked persons. In addition to this work, HTI has engaged in advocacy for the development and implementation of evidence-based policies to safely and effectively assist survivors of trafficking. The initiative's newest efforts have focused on providing comprehensive, trauma-informed and survivor-centered care for victims and survivors of human trafficking referred to the Mass General Freedom Clinic.

Human Trafficking in Health Care

Human trafficking is a global issue of grave public health concern. According to a 2012 report from the International Labour Organization (ILO), an estimated 20.9 million persons worldwide are trapped in forced labor and sexual exploitation.

In the U.S., cases of human trafficking have been reported in all 50 states and make reference to both citizens and foreign nationals. Trafficked persons experience numerous negative health outcomes including, but not limited to:

  • Malnutrition
  • Neglect of chronic medical conditions
  • Occupational injuries
  • Psychological trauma
  • Sexually transmitted infections and diseases (including HIV)
  • Substance use disorders
  • Unplanned pregnancy
  • Violence-related injuries

In a 2014 study conducted by Laura Lederer, founder and president of the non-profit Global Centurion, up to 87.8% of human trafficking survivors report undergoing an evaluation in a health care facility at least once while trafficked. Health care providers are uniquely positioned to prevent trafficking as well as identify and respond to trafficked persons in the health care setting.

Our Focus Areas

Research

  • Identify opportunities for more effective approaches in the health care setting that assist trafficked persons
  • Elucidate the epidemiology and pathology of human trafficking in the U.S.
  • Examine the health sector response to the needs of trafficked persons
  • Understand the health sector’s role in mitigating human trafficking

Policy Advocacy

  • Build a network of health care providers to serve as advocates for trafficked persons
  • Inform policy through research
  • Represent the health sector in agencies and policy groups at the federal and state levels

Education and Training

  • Develop evidence-based resources on human trafficking for health care providers
  • Provide in-person trainings, live and recorded webinars and online courses for health care professionals
  • Train health care providers in trauma-informed, survivor-centered approaches to care

Clinical Care

  • Assess and address medical, mental health and social needs via case management
  • Include survivors on the clinic's advisory board
  • Promote the Mass General Freedom Clinic, which provides free comprehensive primary and preventive care for victims and survivors of human trafficking in the Greater Boston area and beyond
  • Refer as needed to medical subspecialty care and community-based legal/social services

Acknowledgements

We would like to acknowledge our funder, Give Way to Freedom, for helping us make all of this possible!