Alfredo Morabia

American Journal of Public Health Editor-in-Chief Alfredo Morabia, MD, PhD . Photo by APHA

For more than a century the American Journal of Public Health has been the standard-bearer publication in research, research methods and program evaluation in the field of public health. APHA’s official journal was recently voted one of DBIO’s “100 most influential journals in biology and medicine over the last 100 years,” and regularly brings the world of public health to a global audience; just this month, its research has been featured in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, ABC News and Forbes.

AJPH Editor-in-Chief Alfredo Morabia, MD, PhD, took the helm in June with a vision to make the Journal the leader in “historical context and the evidence related to major, ongoing public health issues.” In an interview with Public Health Newswire, Morabia discusses how the Journal  has responded to such issues, including the Flint, Michigan, water crisis and the Zika outbreak.

Q: The American Journal of Public Health has a new look, feel and even sound — with more multimedia and featured commentaries on the most recent public health topics. What is your vision for AJPH and how it delivers the most important public health research?

A: The aim is that readers adopt AJPH as their monthly magazine providing “the historical context and the evidence” related to major, ongoing public health issues. The Journal has been reorganized so that readers find the context in the front part with lots of things to read immediately or during their commute such as news, opinions, debates, book reviews, calls for action or to improve public health, papers about history, law, and policy, reports of successful practical experiences. In the back of the Journal they will find the evidence and the traditional research papers, which remain the core of the Journal.

As practitioners, policymakers, scholars and everyone committed to improve the health of the people know, public health is a culture. The new AJPH aims to nurture this culture.

Q: AJPH has recently helped the world understand the Flint, Michigan, water crisis, publishing research on increases in the percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels after water source change and editorial of “a century of environmental injustice” in Flint. What impact has this had on the public’s response to this public health crisis?

A: This is an illustration of this idea that AJPH provides the historical context and the evidence. AJPH helped people understand that tragedy did not occur in Flint by chance. The city, its population and its environment have been brutalized for decades. It only became worse after the closing of General Motors plants. AJPH also showed that the claims of having endangered the intellectual development of a generation of children are valid. The tragedy has translated into high concentrations of lead in the children’s blood, in particular among those living in the poorest sections of the city.

Q: How does AJPH plan to stay timely on other breaking public health stories?

A: By closely following what is happening in the country and in the world. The March issue inaugurates a new section entitled “On the US Presidential Campaign Trail” with a discussion between two scholars with different political perspectives about a question that they feel is not discussed by the presidential campaign: Why is it that the U.S. spends more than most countries for health and Americans still die younger than in most Western countries?

The April issue will have a special section on the Zika epidemic. Again, an editorial will provide the historical context of these epidemics of viruses carried by mosquitoes brought to the new world 500 years ago from Africa, at the same time as colonialism and slavery. And three papers by Brazilian scholars directly involved with the current epidemic summarize all the data available today on the possible connection of the Zika virus with the outbreak of microcephaly observed in Brazil.

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