New HHS task force formed to prevent human trafficking


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This week, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced the formation of the HHS Task Force to Prevent Human Trafficking, knownl simply as the Task Force. 

The Task Force will facilitate implementation of the actions HHS has committed to in President Biden’s National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, and the hope is that it will strengthen HHS’ human trafficking prevention and intervention efforts with a focus on partnerships, equity and open data.

Becerra first announced the Task Force at a January 25 meeting of Biden’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons – a cabinet-level entity of 20 federal agencies responsible for coordinating U.S. government-wide efforts to combat human trafficking. 

The Administration for Children and Families and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health will lead the Task Force at HHS, which will be comprised of experts from across the department, HHS said.


According to the American Public Health Association, the health system plays an important role in identifying and treating victims of human trafficking. Estimates show that approximately 80% of human trafficking victims are women, and healthcare providers are often the first professionals to have contact with trafficked women and girls. 

One study found that close to 50% of trafficked individuals saw a healthcare professional during their exploitation.

Human trafficking is a public health concern that affects individuals, families and entire communities across generations, according to the Administration for Children and Families, part of HHS.

Human trafficking disproportionally affects many of the communities HHS serves, the agency said. 

These communities include – but are not limited to – youth and adults experiencing homelessness and domestic violence, people in eldercare systems, unaccompanied children and refugees, Indigenous communities, those with a prior history of substance abuse, and other populations that, in HHS’ view, have been systematically marginalized. 

Part of the work of the Task Force will be to figure out how to better reach affected communities where they are.

Along with federal, state, local and public-private partners, the Task Force will work to scale models to prevent human trafficking – particularly in the high-need areas of housing, mental health and substance use, and economic mobility. 

The Task Force will also integrate an “equity lens” into new public awareness strategies to better reach populations at disproportionate risk for human trafficking, HHS said. Finally, the Task Force will partner with the research and business communities to analyze data on human trafficking and prevent it in healthcare supply chains.


Globally, an estimated 25 million people are subjected to human trafficking and forced labor, which is responsible for an estimated $150 billion annually in illicit profits.  

According to the Biden Administration, it erodes the safety and health of communities and transportation networks, border security, the strength of the economy, and the rule of law.  

“The Administration is committed to keeping the fight to end human trafficking at the forefront of our national security agenda,” the White House wrote on its website. 

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: [email protected]


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