195869 Case study methodology for studying global sex trafficking of women and girls through a public health lens

Monday, November 9, 2009: 12:30 PM

Thomas F. Burke, MD , Division of Global Health & Human Rights, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA
Roy Ahn, MPH, ScD , Division of Global Health and Human Rights, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA

Sex trafficking of women and girls is a major public health concern in the U.S. and overseas. Nearly 2 million children, mostly girls, are trafficked globally each year, with well-documented deleterious physical and mental health effects. However, a greater understanding of social determinants, and the potential of local health systems to address sex trafficking is needed.


This research examines sex trafficking of women and girls in 8 cities around the world using a multiple-case study approach pioneered in political science and other non-health fields. Studying sex trafficking through case studies provides in-depth insights into the complex nature of this practice and the capacity of local health systems to respond accordingly.


Case study city site selection criteria included prevalence and adequate local public health infrastructure. Each case study examined salient constructs related to sex trafficking (e.g., gender inequality, access to health) in each city. Pairs of researchers conducted in-person interviews of key informants (health providers, NGO staff, government officials) until theoretical saturation was attained. Interview transcripts were analyzed using qualitative research software. Findings from interviews were triangulated with other information sources (e.g. existing reports or other documents).


Case studies have been completed in New York and Rio de Janeiro, underway in Salvador (Brazil) and Mumbai (India), and are planned for Los Angeles, London, with 2 final cities to be determined.


Findings may identify factors that impede or facilitate local health systems' ability to respond to sex trafficking, and advance strategies for helping trafficked women and girls.

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify underlying determinants of sex trafficking of women and girls; and 2. Describe the potential role of local health systems in responding to sex trafficking.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present this abstract because I serve as the Associate Director of Research and Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital, Division of Global Health & Human Rights. I am also an instructor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.