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Focusing PLoS Medicine on the diseases and risk factors that cause the greatest losses in years of healthy life worldwide

The editorial published in this week’s PLoS Medicine looks back over the 5 years since the journal made its first call for papers and describes a new evidence-based approach to the aims and scope of the journal, which emphasizes the focus of PLoS Medicine on the diseases and risk factors that cause the greatest losses in years of healthy life worldwide.

We also want to emphasise the need to look beyond just the biological causes of disease. As the world faces up to the challenges of a changing climate, a turbulent economic system, continued global conflict – and now a possible influenza pandemic – we now wish to reinforce the important place in health research of work that encompasses the social, environmental, and political determinants of health, as well as the biological.

All articles published this week in the journal illustrate the journal’s priorities.

In the research section the following articles are published: Anders Bjorkman and colleagues’ trial of rapid diagnostic testing for malaria diagnosis in Zanzibar; Majid Ezzati and colleagues’ study of US data on risk factor exposures and disease-specific mortality; and Matthias Egger and colleagues’comparison of mortality rates between African patients starting HIV treatment and the general population. In the magazine section a Health in Action article by Yibeltal Assefa and colleagues describes scale-up of antiretroviral treatment across Ethiopia, Bruno Marchal and colleagues argue in a Policy Forum that strategies which strengthen health systems are overly selective, and Daniel Reidpath and colleagues use the fourth Millennium Development Goal (MDG) as an example of the potential to neglect equity in the race to achieve the MDGs.

We conclude the editorial by saying that we believe our new, evidence-based, approach will not only ensure that open-access publishing reflects the health priorities of the 21st century, but will also reaffirm and revitalize the long tradition of medical journals leading, rather than following, the debate over research priorities.

See the guidelines in the journal for more details.

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