José M. Belizán is a medical doctor, with a PhD in Reproductive Health Sciences. He is currently Senior Researcher at the Institute for Clinical Effectiveness and Health Policy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Adjunct Professor of the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and Adjunct Professor of the School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is an obstetrician and epidemiologist and has participated in numerous major perinatal trials.
What inspired your interest in the field of reproductive health?
Every person in the world could, at any time in his or her life, be faced with reproductive needs, options, threats, or decisions. Inequities in reproductive health are striking between the poor and rich populations.
Living, interacting, studying and working in Latin America, I find it to be a region of great inspiration. As the region with the highest inequities in the world, I feel the need to contribute with interventions to ameliorate this inequity.
During my training period I received information on the striking inequities in reproductive health inspiring me to work in this health area.
How did you get into editing, and what do you think makes a good Editor-in-Chief?
I was honoured to be invited by BioMed Central to become the Editor-in-Chief of Reproductive Health. Without any hesitation I took on the challenge since I consider that, through the journal, we can make a contribution to the improvement of reproductive health throughout the population.
In my view the most important quality in colleagues is the focus, sensitivity and commitment of providing good science for the improvement of global health.
To be Editor-in-Chief is a heavy task with overwhelming responsibilities. An initial relevant step is the selection of the people that will share these responsibilities with you. In my view the most important quality in colleagues is the focus, sensitivity and commitment of providing good science for the improvement of global health.
We think that the first decision when looking at a new submission is to assess its contribution to global health regardless of the quality of the manuscript. Quality of the manuscript can be improved, but innovative and original ideas are scarce, and the results of testing innovative ideas should be provided to the health and research community.
A great satisfaction of an Editor-in-Chief is to collaborate with novel researchers in facilitating the publication of their products. In many instances this would involve collaborating with the authors to improve their report, which implies a major effort from the journal editorial team. The greatest satisfaction of an Editor-in-Chief is clicking the item ‘Accept’, particularly when this paper comes from researchers from low and middle-income countries. We feel that we are including them in the scientific world and highlighting their contributions to the improvement of global health.
Guiding the authors and providing them with tools that can enable them to improve the quality of their manuscript is a good approach to follow.
Since your career began, what do you think has been the most important development in the reproductive health field?
The greatest achievement has been to give couples, and in particular women, the choice and the accessibility to plan their reproduction – to plan when and whether they are going to have children or not. This also implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life.
In your opinion, what is the biggest global challenge still to be addressed?
The biggest global health issue is equity – equity in access to healthcare and equity in access to tools to help plan reproductive life.
The biggest global health issue is equity – equity in access to healthcare and equity in access to tools to help plan reproductive life. Every woman in the world, and every couple in the world, should have the opportunity to plan a birth. So the main challenge is how this can be achieved for every woman in the world.
This year a report of the Global Burden of Disease initiative shows that maternal disorders were the highest cause of death for young women aged 20–24 years (17.1%) and the fourth highest for girls aged 15–19 years (11.5%) in 2013.
How could this be achieved?
There are many contributions that we can make from the point of view of editors and researchers. One is to strengthen and disseminate implementation science. This science focuses on how interventions can be implemented, that are beneficial to the population and in our case in reproductive health. There are many constraints we face, such as health providers’ attitudes and poverty. I think that the approach of implementation science – testing interventions that could result in better implementation – should be heavily promoted among researchers.
Open access of publications is a major contributor to the improvement of health and research in low and middle income countries. Thanks to this initiative, now providers and researchers from low-and middle-income countries have the same opportunity to access the literature as those from high-income countries.
Would you be able to expand on any upcoming new initiatives in Reproductive Health and any new upcoming content?
Recently we made it mandatory for every article published in the journal, that the author provide a plain abstract with a simple message to the reader of the results and practical applications of the paper.
Recently we made it mandatory for every article published in the journal, that the author provide a plain abstract with a simple message to the reader of the results and practical applications of the paper. The objective is that the population and the providers can gain knowledge that could change attitudes and practices and potentially improve their quality of life.
We also just started a policy of mandatory open access data. There is a real need to have access to databases in order for secure transparency of the results. Also the sharing of databases implies saving time, money and avoiding the replication of efforts.
Science should be based on the generosity of researchers working together to contribute to the improvement and well-being of the population as a whole.
We are publishing many articles from Africa, Asia and Latin America to show the priorities that should be addressed in research. Publication of systematic reviews is also a priority in the journal to show researchers what has already been done and what still needs to be assessed.
We are continuously working on the improvement of information to authors, giving help and tools for scientists to improve the designing and reporting of their studies. We are promoting the publication of protocols as this increases transparency, ensures that the process is reproducible, and also encourages the publication of all the results including null results.