Moving Upstream: The Merits of a Public Health Law Approach to Human Trafficking

61 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2011 Last revised: 15 May 2014

See all articles by Jonathan Todres

Jonathan Todres

Georgia State University College of Law

Date Written: January 18, 2011


Human trafficking, a gross violation of human rights and human dignity, has been identified by numerous government leaders as one of the priority issues of our time. Legislative efforts over the past decade have produced a patchwork of criminal laws and some assistance programs for victims. There is no evidence, however, that these efforts have reduced the incidence of trafficking. This lack of meaningful progress prompts questions as to what the best framework is for addressing human trafficking. This Article begins with a discussion of the limitations inherent in the current law-enforcement-centric approach to the problem. It then explores the merits of a public health approach to human trafficking. As evidenced with governmental and community responses to issues such as road safety and smoking, public health strategies have proven successful in reducing harm by focusing on prevention and addressing underlying causes. Ultimately, this Article concludes that, although a public health approach alone is not sufficient, public health methodologies can advance anti-trafficking efforts in ways currently underutilized or not contemplated by a criminal law model, and reveal deep-seated structural challenges impeding the success of current legislative and policy initiatives designed to combat human trafficking.

Keywords: Human Trafficking, Public Health, Prevention, Evidence-Based Research, Root Causes, Children

JEL Classification: K14, K30, K32, O20, H50, I18, I10, D70, J16

Suggested Citation

Todres, Jonathan, Moving Upstream: The Merits of a Public Health Law Approach to Human Trafficking (January 18, 2011). North Carolina Law Review, Vol. 89, No. 2, p. 447, 2011, Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2011-02, Available at SSRN:

Jonathan Todres (Contact Author)

Georgia State University College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States

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