Journals team up to highlight poverty and health

Journals from 34 countries took part in the issue Copyright: SciDev.Net

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Science and health journals around the world have called attention to science’s role in alleviating poverty, with a mass publication of research examining projects to improve health and reduce healthcare inequities.

The Council of Science Editors — a group of more than 1,200 people from the science publishing industry — launched their global theme issue on poverty and human development yesterday (22 October), involving 235 journals from 34 countries.

"This remarkable international collaboration highlights the tremendous health disparities that exist in the developing world and demonstrates that, through science, we can reduce the huge inequities that exist," said Roger Glass, director of the Fogarty International Center, part of the United States’ National Institutes for Health (NIH), in a press release.

Journals involved in the global theme issue include Nature, Science, The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), The Lancet and The Public Library of Science (PLoS) journals, as well as many journals based in the developing world.

Annette Flanagin, managing deputy editor of JAMA and a member of the council, said that the theme issue will raise awareness about poverty not only through people reading about it, but because the journals have called for and generated research on the topic.

"The science in poverty and human development is nascent, but it’s maturing, and [a theme issue like this] is what helps it mature," Flanagin told SciDev.Net.

Publishing, especially in the influential journals, brings in funding for more and better research, she says, which will enhance programmes that look to alleviate poverty by improving health.

As part of the launch, the council highlighted seven of the most outstanding research projects out of the dozens reported in the global theme issue.

These included research on the link between food insufficiency and high-risk sexual behaviour in women in Botswana and Swaziland, published in PLoS Medicine, and a study of interventions to improve the safety of homebirths in Pakistan, published in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Also deemed outstanding were a JAMA study on the potential of interventions, such as improved nutrition to improve child survival, and an American Journal of Public Health investigation on the causes of doctor migration from the developing world.

The diversity of these seven projects illustrates the complexity of today’s major global health challenges, said Elias Zerhouni, director of the NIH, in a press release, adding that the scientific community must ensure that scientific advances can be effectively delivered to all people, including those in resource-poor settings.

Link to Global theme issue on poverty and human development