Ending all forms of labor trafficking by 2030 has been prioritized within the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Target 8.7), yet progress in combatting trafficking has been limited. Human trafficking is recognized as a global public health concern because of its widespread negative impacts on individual and population level health. This has led researchers, policymakers, and NGOs to frequently claim that trafficking has reached “epidemic proportions”. If such is the case, then using tools from public health and epidemiology can help to generate novel insights in the way we conceptualize, research, and address the problem of trafficking. Using a methodological framework known as the Epidemiologic Problem Oriented Approach (EPOA), we analyze the various components of labor trafficking identification and response, drawing contextualized comparisons with infectious disease epidemiology to characterize labor trafficking as a “disease”. This cross-disciplinary approach provides a well-defined conceptual organization of the components that play a role in understanding trafficking dynamics. Epidemiology is highly relevant in the study of trafficking and contributes to the growing research interest surrounding the intersection of public health and human trafficking.
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