Online Program

Using community readiness assessment to prepare communities for effective response to commercial exploitation

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 : 1:10 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Heather Wightman, MSW MPH, RIA House Inc. -- Ready.Inspire.Act, Framingham, MA
Rachel Kohn, MSW MPH, Community Health Institute, John Snow Research &Training Institute, Inc., Boston, MA
Kit Beaudoin, Educator, Private, Dover, MA
Globally, human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) are profoundly complex public health problems, affecting more than 29 million people each year, mostly women and children. In the United States alone, more than 300,000 people are forced into CSE annually. CSE is enormously profitable for traffickers and deeply injurious to the exploited. Specialized safe homes are evolving as promising practices to support the complex intervention and aftercare service needs of the affected target population. In 2012, a diverse group of Massachusetts citizens launched a local effort to create a residential home community for adult women emerging from CSE. The group (entitled RIA House) utilized a community-based participatory approach to evaluate the potential community's readiness to support the program. A 14-member volunteer team used the Community Readiness Interview (Plested, et al., 2005), to conduct key informant interviews across nine population sectors including business, human services, and other strata within the target community. Questions centered on attitudes, knowledge, and obstacles to changing community responses to CSE. To date, 10 of 50 interviews have been completed and analyzed using sensitizing concepts (Patton, 2002). Preliminary findings include a notable lack of knowledge about CSE and poor understanding of possible solutions (such as support for legalization of prostitution as an intervention). Data are still under analysis. Early findings affirm the importance of community readiness assessments in understanding potential challenges faced by public health social workers. Implications for how to engage the community, including development of potential resources and building of future partnerships, will be discussed.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Program planning
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Demonstrate how to conduct a community readiness assessment with a defined public health problem, such as commercial sexual exploitation. Analyze qualitative data themes towards understanding better the challenges and areas of strength in the community towards addressing commercial sexual exploitation. Discuss the implications of community readiness assessments on how best to engage the community in addressing commercial sexual exploitation.

Keyword(s): Human Rights, Violence

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Heather Wightman is the Founder of RIA House. RIA House aspires to be a home community in Massachusetts for women leaving a life of commercial sexual exploitation. Ms. Wightman has more than 15 years of experience managing federal, state, local human service programs in the area of violence prevention. She received her MSW and MPH from Boston University. Ms. Wightman has served on boards of ACLU of MA, YWCA and Matahari: Eye of the Day.
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.