RSTMH celebrates ten years of International Health

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Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Professor David Molyneux is an Honorary Professor at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Emeritus Professor of the University of Liverpool. He was Director of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine between 1991 and 2000.

His work has been recognised by the award of Medals from the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and the British Society for Parasitology – societies for which he has served as President.

I am delighted, as Editor-in-Chief of International Health, to draw the attention of the RSTMH community to a special issue of the journal to celebrate 10 years since the first issue was published in 2009.

Thank you to all those who have given their valuable time, energy and above all their unique perspectives on a range of topics. It has been a pleasure to be involved in commissioning these articles on some of the most critical issues in the world of tropical medicine and global health.  

The topics covered represent some of the major challenges that the global health community have faced over the last decade, as well as those that will remain in the coming years at a time of increased geo-political uncertainty and climate change, including Ebola, road safety, mental health, maternal health, neglected tropical diseases and vaccines.

A need to recognise broader issues in health 

In 2007, the Society, under Professor Sir Brian Greenwood’s Presidency, recognised a need to provide a publishing outlet for the plethora of health issues confronting populations in low- and middle-income countries.

This was to recognise that there were much broader issues determining the health of populations than those traditionally published in Transactions, whose reason for being since 1908 had been to focus on the clinical and epidemiological problems of tropical interest.

NCDs, political crises, mental health, Ebola, air pollution, AMR and more 

Since the first issue of International Health in 2009, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have emerged as the conditions that will represent the largest burden of health – as reported by successive Global Burden of Disease studies – and a major driver of policy consideration.

In parallel, there have been significant political events which have resulted in profoundly negative health crises, in particular, in Yemen, Myanmar/Bangladesh, Syria and Venezuela. In all these cases, health facilities, workers and systems have suffered hugely, as well as there being consequential malnutrition and outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and leishmaniasis when relief agencies are already at breaking point.

Such disruptive and traumatic events will have a profound long-term impact on the mental health of those affected in settings where services and skills devoted to mental health are limited if not non-existent.

In parallel, the antivaccine movement has gained traction, resulting in a significant increase in measles cases in many countries, while huge increases in particulate pollution associated with the rapid growth of India and China’s economies are causing a myriad of health problems for their populations, the longer-term consequences of which cannot be predicted. The Democratic Republic of Congo remains in the grip of an Ebola outbreak which has been ongoing for over a year and the threat of antimicrobial resistance is ever-growing.  

Expert insights

In this special issue of International Health some of these topics have been addressed by authors with expert insights and direct experience. These include Jeremy Farrar on innovation, Mwele Malecela on neglected tropical diseases, Jeff Sachs on health financing, Vikram Patel on mental health and Janet Hemingway on vector-borne diseases, to mention just a few.

We hope that the issue will be extensively distributed and read and prove a landmark publication which RSTMH members will feel represents the breadth of topics they hope to see in International Health.  We also encourage as many of you as possible to suggest this issue to your students, given the huge authority of the contributors.

Several topics which have not been covered in the issue itself – climate change and particulate pollution, for example – will be published in International Health over the coming months as commentaries to supplement the issue itself. We have also included in the printed publication important papers already published online this year, which we feel merit inclusion.

Open access from January 2020

Until now, International Health has been a hybrid journal, however from January 2020, it will become a fully open access publication. Open access was introduced as an option in 2013 and since then there has been an increase in uptake and in 2018, 20% of authors chose this option.

However, many authors are not aware that this is available and that, for authors based in HINARI countries, the article processing charge (APC) is waived. We are conscious that authors from less well-resourced institutions in low- and middle-income countries deserve to have a quality platform for their work. We believe that International Health in its new guise provides that platform.

Our objective is to seek to increase dramatically our impact factor over the coming years, but this is necessarily a slow process. Significant progress has been made, as we have seen a 36% increase in submission numbers from 2017 to 2018. From January to July this year, there has been a similar step up, with a 30% increase in published articles over the last two years and an acceptance rate of 35% (rejection rate 65%).  

The future of International Health 

I am conscious that authors have expectations and requirements: a rapid and fair decision-making process, constructive and speedy reviews, and quick and courteous feedback. We hope we achieve these pre-requisites.

I believe that the future for International Health, is positive and exciting – reflecting the need for the RSTMH membership and others to communicate quality research on the wider health issues impacting on the less privileged. The whole team, including myself as Editor-in-Chief, is looking forward to bringing many more issues of the journal.

As a final word of thanks, I would like to acknowledge our publisher Oxford University Press, our Associate Editors, Editorial Board and, in particular, the Managing Editor, Clodagh McGuire, for all her efforts in bringing this special issue to fruition. I hope you enjoy it.   

Read the special issue of International Health

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