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PLOS Medicine Special Issue: Global Child Health; From Birth to Adolescence and Beyond

The editors of PLOS Medicine together with Guest Editors Prof. Zulfiqar A. Bhutta, Prof. Kathryn M. Yount, and Prof. Quique Bassat, announce a forthcoming special issue devoted to child and adolescent health.

In 2000, the UN adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were intended to address key determinants of human health and welfare, including poverty, hunger, and disease. One of the MDGs included the specific aim to reduce child mortality globally. However, now that the original 2015 target date has passed, concerns have been raised that not all of the MDGs, including targets on child health and welfare, have ultimately been met.

The WHO reports that, in 2018, still over 6 million children and adolescents died globally, of which over 5 million died before the age of 5. The majority of these deaths are preventable. In children under 5, the leading causes of death include pneumonia, diarrhoea, neonatal sepsis, and malaria. In adolescents 10–19 years, road injuries, self-harm, HIV, and interpersonal or collective violence are predominant causes of death, and their contributions to mortality differ for girls and boys. The overwhelming majority of child and adolescent deaths still occur in low- and middle-income countries in Africa and South Asia.

The Sustainable Development Goals – the successors to the MDGs – form the basis for the WHO-UNICEF Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s, and Adolescents’ Health 2016-2030. This strategy aims towards the highest attainable standards of health and wellbeing. Factors, such as education, a safe home environment, water, clean air, sanitation, hygiene, and infrastructure, are recognized determinants for the health of the growing individual. The strategy proposes an agenda that includes Survive (end preventable deaths), Thrive (ensure health and wellbeing), and Transform (expand enabling environments). The strategy also prompts the health sector not to remain a passive recipient of positive health effects of investments in other sectors, but to become more active in monitoring and to analyse critical interventions in non-health sectors that substantially contribute to health outcomes.

It has also been reported that many child and adolescent deaths could be prevented by reducing environmental risks. Notably, changes in climatic conditions have several direct and indirect effects on child and adolescent health. These changes are projected to affect the distribution of infection diseases, such as malaria and dengue, thereby increasing future risk to children in otherwise non-endemic areas.

Although considerable progress has been made in the last century to reduce mortality from birth through adolescence, much work remains to be done. PLOS Medicine and the Guest Editors are therefore inviting high quality, impactful research in this important area on:

  • Strategies to monitor and combat globally child mortality from birth through adolescence, including the burden of disease, in countries at all income levels.
  • Adolescent and school-age health and welfare (sometimes termed the ‘missing middle’), including all facets of development, disability, and education.
  • Marginalised populations of children and adolescents, including girls, those living in slum conditions or with disabilities, and those affected by violence or conflict.
  • Environmental impacts on child health and mortality, including strategies to mitigate future risks due to a changing climate.

For further details on how to submit your article for inclusion in this special issue please see and contact the journal at with any questions. The deadline for submissions will be 31 January 2021.

Image credit: Mundial Perspectives/flickr (CC-BY-2.0).

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