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Non-Communicable Diseases and Maternal Health Around the Globe. A Call for Papers for a Maternal Health Task Force Collection

By Sarah M. Hodin, Jacquelyn M. Caglia, Mary Nell Wegner and Ana Langer from the Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF)


The causes of maternal mortality are complex and often begin well before a woman goes into labor or even becomes pregnant. Improving maternal health outcomes requires a comprehensive understanding of women’s health throughout the life course. Addressing the root causes of poor maternal health is especially important given the current “obstetric transition”: In many parts of the world, we are witnessing an epidemiological shift from mostly direct causes of maternal deaths to more indirect causes[i].

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) account for almost 65% of women’s deaths around the globe, and three quarters of women’s deaths caused by NCDs occur in low- and middle-income countries[ii]. Women with diabetes, anemia, obesity and hypertensive pregnancy disorders are at a higher risk of developing dangerous childbirth-related complications, as are their newborns. Children born to mothers with NCDs are also at a higher risk of experiencing adverse health outcomes later in life[iii].

Image Credit: Jack Zalium, flickr
Image Credit: Jack Zalium, flickr

Interventions designed to reduce maternal mortality, particularly in low-resource settings, have focused heavily on intrapartum care—administering oxytocin to prevent hemorrhage and magnesium sulfate for pre-eclampsia/eclampsia, for instance[iv]. Less attention has been given to the complex “indirect causes” of maternal deaths and the underlying risk factors for life-threatening complications. A more holistic approach to improving maternal health is needed, which includes addressing the global burden of NCDs contributing to maternal mortality and morbidity worldwide.


Call for Papers:

The Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF) and PLOS ONE are delighted to announce the call for papers for the fifth annual MHTF-PLOS Collection: “Non-Communicable Diseases and Maternal Health Around the Globe.” Papers submitted to this collection must present and discuss primary quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods research in maternal health with the following focus:

  • Investigation of the role of NCDs and social determinants in the shifting epidemiology of maternal health
  • Assessment of NCD risk factors and implications for reproductive or maternal health
  • Application of the life course approach to assessing maternal health in the context of NCDs
  • Implementation and evaluation of interventions designed to reduce the burden of NCDs with a particular focus on women of reproductive age
  • Community-based research identifying local perceptions of links between NCDs and maternal health using rigorous qualitative methods
  • Analysis of disparities in maternal health among populations with high NCD burden

Research articles should adhere to PLOS ONE’s publication criteria and submissions that present new methods or tools as the primary focus of the manuscript should meet additional requirements regarding utility, validation and availability. Authors should refer to the PLOS ONE Submission Guidelines for specific submission requirements.


Publication Funding:

This special collection has been made possible by generous support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through Grant #OPP1125608 to the Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF) at the Women and Health Initiative at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. The MHTF is pleased to cover the publication costs for a limited number of papers from authors with a financial need, for example early career researchers and/or authors from low-and middle-income countries. Authors requiring such assistance should include a statement to that effect in their initial correspondence to (see below). 


Submitting to the Collection:

Authors should submit a preliminary abstract or full paper (if possible) for scope consideration to Potential suitability for the collection will generally be determined within two weeks. A draft of the full manuscript may be requested if suitability cannot be determined based on the abstract alone. Preliminary decision on scope based on draft abstracts or manuscripts does not imply acceptance by the journal upon submission. Editors have no knowledge of an author’s financial status, and all decisions will be based solely on editorial criteria. If your submission has been approved for conditional inclusion in the collection after scope review, a full draft of the paper should be submitted to PLOS ONE using the collection submission guidelines. Submitted manuscripts will then undergo evaluation according to the journal’s policies, and no articles can be guaranteed acceptance. PLOS ONE editors will retain all control over editorial decisions.

Articles will stand the best chance of inclusion in the collection if they are submitted by April 1, 2017 (articles submitted for scope consideration after this date will still be considered, but if accepted, may not publish in time for the launch of the collection).


[i] Souza JP, et al. (2014) Obstetric transition: the pathway towards ending preventable maternal deaths. BJOG 121 (s1): 1-4.

[ii] World Health Organization and UNICEF. (2016) Integration of the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases and Maternal and Newborn Health Programmes and Services—A Case for Action.

[iii] Kapur A. (2015) Links between maternal health and NCDs. Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology 29: 32-42.

[iv] Hodgins S, Tielsch J, Rankin K, Robinson A, Kearns A, Caglia J. (2016) A New Look at Care in Pregnancy: Simple, Effective Interventions for Neglected Populations. PLOS ONE 11(8): e0160562.

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