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Neglected Populations: Decreasing Inequalities & Improving Measurement in Maternal Health. A Call for Papers for a Maternal Health Task Force Collection

By Katie Millar, Jacquelyn Caglia and Ana Langer from the Maternal Health Task Force.


Progress for All

As a maternal health community, we have much to celebrate as we reflect on progress made with global attention to the Millennium Development Goals. Yet, most countries have not met MDG 5 [i], [ii], to reduce maternal mortality by three quarters by 2015, and, despite progress, inequality prevails both among and within countries [iii], [iv]. The Sustainable Development Goals emphasize the urgent need for increased equality everywhere [v].

In order to address the need to reduce inequalities and showcase necessary measurement improvements to uncover them, the Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF) is partnering for the fourth time with PLOS for a new MHTF-PLOS collection, “Neglected Populations: Decreasing inequalities and improving measurement in maternal health.” The MHTF’s overarching goal for our collections is to promote and facilitate the wide dissemination of new evidence on this critical topic, highlighting in particular the work of maternal health researchers in low-resource settings.

Image Credit: Jack Zalium, flickr

The epicenter of inequality is often found in neglected populations. Groups of women who are marginalized based on their race [vi], ethnicity, language [vii], socioeconomic status [viii], citizenship (or statelessness) [ix], age [iv], disability [iv], or geography [viii] experience some of the worst health outcomes. As the tide of global health priorities turns to universal health coverage [x], [xi], [xii],  we must ensure that those worst off are provided access to the full spectrum of quality reproductive, maternal and newborn health care.

In 2014, more people were displaced, internally and externally, than any other year in recorded history. The staggering rate of 59.5 million is 59% higher than it was a decade ago [xiii]. The resulting statelessness of displacement often further complicates a woman’s ability to access the care she needs [ix]. In particular, women in areas of conflict experience high rates of trauma, especially domestic and sexual violence [xiv],[xv] and have poor access to reproductive and maternal health care [xvi], [iv].

Now, more women live in urban settings than rural, where they face a new set of barriers to health. Urban residence can bring challenges of overcrowding, insecurity, decreased social cohesion, and unhealthy lifestyles [iv] Other groups, including adolescents [iv], women with HIV, and sexual minorities [iv], have poor access to maternal healthcare due to stigma or prejudice.



Call for Papers

Through this latest collection of papers, we seek to draw attention to issues of inequality within maternal health, with a particular focus on new and innovative measurement tools and approaches to track disparities and guide efforts to reduce them.

Papers submitted to this collection must present and discuss primary quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods research in maternal health with the following focus:

  • Analysis of strategies to assess and address the needs of neglected populations
  • Community-based research conducted in neglected populations
  • Implementation and evaluation of programs where the neglected population they were designed to serve was included throughout the planning, implementation, and evaluation process
  • Use of disaggregated data to address inequalities in maternal health
  • Presentation and evaluation of new measurement tools or novel application of existing ones to reduce disparities in maternal health
  • In order to produce a well-rounded collection, we are particularly interested in submissions that include study populations in sub-Saharan Africa, migrants, women in conflict areas, racial minorities, adolescents, or stigmatized groups.

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 at the Women and Health Initiative at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. The Maternal Health Task Force 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 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 May 1, 2016 (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] Countdown Final Report

[ii] The Millennium Development Goals Report

[iii] Addressing inequity to achieve the maternal and child health millennium development goals: looking beyond averages

[iv] Women and Health: the key for sustainable development

[v] Ending preventable maternal and newborn mortality and stillbirths

[vi] Pregnancy-related mortality in the United States, 2006-2010.

[vii] Maternal language and adverse birth outcomes in a statewide analysis.

[viii] Disadvantaged populations in maternal health in China who and why?

[ix] Health insurance for people with citizenship problems in Thailand: a case study of policy implementation.

[x] The Politics of Universal Health Coverage in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Framework for Evaluation and Action.

[xi] Towards universal health coverage for reproductive health services in Ethiopia: two policy recommendations.

[xii] Universal health coverage in ‘One ASEAN’: are migrants included?

[xiii] World at War: UNHCR Global Trends 2014

[xiv] What evidence exists for initiatives to reduce risk and incidence of sexual violence in armed conflict and other humanitarian crises? A systematic review.

[xv] Symptoms associated with pregnancy complications along the Thai-Burma border: the role of conflict violence and intimate partner violence.

[xvi] Maternal health care amid political unrest: the effect of armed conflict on antenatal care utilization in Nepal.



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