Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Guidelines for Contributors

1. Scope and editorial policy


The mission of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization is “to publish and disseminate scientifically rigorous public health information of international significance that enables policy-makers, researchers and practitioners to be more effective; it aims to improve health, particularly among disadvantaged populations”.

The Bulletin welcomes a variety of unsolicited manuscripts (see below, 1.1.1.). These are initially screened in house for originality, relevance to an international public health audience and scientific rigour. If they pass the initial screening, they are sent to peer reviewers whose opinions are taken into account by the journal’s editorial advisers when they decide whether to accept a manuscript for publication. Accepted papers are subject to editorial revision, which may involve shortening or restructuring the text and deleting superfluous tables and figures. The word limits given for each type of contribution do not include the abstract (where applicable), tables, boxes, figures and references or appendices, if any. The principal types of manuscripts are outlined below.


We welcome unsolicited submissions to the Research, Systematic reviews, Policy & Practice, Lessons from the field and Perspectives sections of the Bulletin. All manuscripts destined for the first four of these sections must include two paragraphs indicating what they add to the literature. The paragraphs should briefly explain:
• what was already known about the topic concerned;
• what new knowledge the manuscript contributes.


Primary research, methodologically rigorous, of relevance to international public health. Formal scientific presentations having not more than 3000 words and 50 references, plus a structured abstract (see below, 2.7); peer reviewed. The reporting of results of studies should follow best practices as prescribed in standard reporting guidelines for various types of experimental and observational studies. A full list of such guidelines is available on the EQUATOR Network web site, at: http://www.equator-network.org/about-equator/equator-publications0/equator-network-publications-2010. Intervention trials as defined by WHO (i.e. “any research study that prospectively assigns human participants or groups of humans to one or more health-related interventions to evaluate the effects on health outcomes”) require registration in a public trials registry acceptable to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) before submission, and the registration number must be provided at the end of the abstract. Acceptable registries are listed at: http://www.icmje.org/faq_clinical.html. Web publication constitutes prior publication. This includes institutional web sites that are open to the general public.

Systematic reviews in public health

Exhaustive, critical assessments of published and unpublished studies (grey literature) on research questions concerning public health policy or practice, with meta-analysis when feasible. Not more than 3000 words and 50 references, plus a structured abstract (see below, 2.7); peer reviewed. How studies were included and excluded should be illustrated in a flow diagram. Authors should strictly follow the reporting guidelines for systematic reviews and meta-analyses available at: http://www.equator-network.org/about-equator/equator-publications0/equator-network-publications-2010.

Policy and Practice

Analytical assessments, debates or hypothesis-generating papers; not more than 3000 words and 50 references, plus a non-structured abstract (see below, 2.7); peer reviewed.

Lessons from the Field

Papers that capture experiences and practice gained in solving specific public health problems in developing countries. Convincing evidence of effect should be provided. Not more than 1500 words and 15 references, plus a structured abstract (see below, 2.7); not more than one table and one figure; peer reviewed (see: http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/84/1/3.pdf).


Views, hypotheses or discussions (with a clear message) surrounding an issue of public health interest; up to 1500 words, no more than six references; peer reviewed.


The categories of articles shown below are normally commissioned by the editors. Authors wishing to submit an unsolicited manuscript for one of these categories should first contact the editorial office (see below, 2.1).


Authoritative reviews, analyses or views of an important topic related to a theme or to one or more papers published in a given issue; not more than 800 words, maximum 12 references.


Explanatory or critical analyses of individual articles; not more than 800 words and 12 references.

Round Tables

A base paper on a controversial current topic in public health (not more than 2000 words and an abstract) is the core of a debate by several discussants invited to contribute not more than 500 words each.