Environmental health and safety of Chinese sex workers: A cross-sectional study

Eleanor A. Holroyd, William C.W. Wong, Sister Ann Gray, Davina C. Ling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: This paper presents a Hong Kong (HK) data on the effect that sex work has on women's environmental health and safety. An outreach role that highlights safety and human rights is suggested for nurses working with female sex workers (FSWs) as clients. Background: In HK it was estimated that there were at least 200,000 FSWs in 2002 and the total population involved as workers, support staff, clients and partners of the clients exceeded half a million in a city of 6.8 million people. Despite these numbers, both locally and internationally there are very limited outreach nursing services that address the FSW's occupational health needs. Method: A cross-sectional survey, was undertaken over a 5 month period commencing in October 2003. A validated Chinese version of the World Health Organisation Quality of Life Measure was administered to a convenience sample of 89 female street sex workers. A focus group interview was later conducted to gain contextual information. Results: The predominantly mainland Chinese FSWs had a mean age of 36.1 years. These women tended to be less educated and older than the general population of FSWs. They worked long hours with most of their income sent back home to China. Many lived in sub-optimal conditions and risked being abused while at work. The women scored significantly lower in the environmental domains when compared to the general female population. Conclusion: Highlighted is the critical importance of developing a new role, both international and within the Asian region, for community nurses working in an outreach capacity. This role should be visible, affordable and accessible, for at risk populations such as FSWs. The primary focus of the new role would be to establish a close working relationship between sex workers, sex industry owner/operators, health agencies and local authorities. Risk awareness programs developed and conducted by community nurses should embrace the complexity of occupational health issues. Such programs would also have the benefit of affirming the health rights of sex workers and public health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)932-941
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Chinese
  • Occupational health
  • Sex workers


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