[NOTE: This guidance pertains only to abstracts sent in response to a Request for Abstracts, not for submitted articles. For information on formatting an abstract for a submitted article, see our Abstract guidelines.]

Health Affairs abstract submission guidelines and requirements, and answers to Frequently Asked Questions


The health policy sphere comprises many interests, industrial sectors, professions, and academic disciplines. Papers that address topics that will interest a broad range of readers interested in policy questions and that cut across these dimensions tend to do better than those that focus on a relatively narrow aspect of a problem, narrow professional interests, or papers that focus on aspects of a problem that are not primarily policy-oriented, such as specific operational issues or questions that would primarily be of interest to other audiences (e.g., methodologists or clinicians).

Papers that advocate on behalf of specific organizations or their agendas, or that fail to go beyond aspirational statements tend not to be selected for invitation.

While Health Affairs is nonpartisan, we welcome submissions representing a range of viewpoints, provided that those viewpoints reflect a balanced assessment of what is known about a topic and recommendations that take account of political, economic, and organizational constraints and realities.


Your abstract should be the paper “in miniature.” It should state, concisely

  • What the topic is
  • Why it’s important
  • What you’re going to do in the paper

Empirical work

If the paper is empirical, the abstract should include a brief description of the data and methods, along with the important quantitative findings, followed by discussion/conclusions that specify the contribution of the findings and how they relate to policy issues. If quantitative findings are not yet available, the abstract should be clear about what outcomes will be measured and what kinds of questions the research will address.

Review/synthesis or commentary/analysis
If the paper does not present new research and is more of a “review/synthesis” piece or a “commentary/analysis” involving an important problem in health policy, in addition to being clear about the topic and why it’s important, the abstract should give readers a clear sense of the structure of the argument and the evidence that will be considered in making the argument. The discussion should present recommendations, including a sense of obstacles/issues that would need to be addressed in advancing the recommendations.

Abstracts that present concrete examples, that are clear about the practical importance of the topic, and that present specifics are favored over those that are overly theoretical/conceptual or vague.

Formatting guidance and submission details and requirements

1. The abstract should include these elements:
    a. Title
    b. Author names and affiliations in the order in which they would appear        on a published byline. Include affiliations in parentheses following each        author's name; separate author names with commas; no hard returns        between authors/affiliations.
    c. Abstract
    d. Submitting author's contact information: Name, affiliation, phone         number, e-mail address

Additional formatting guidance

• Each element of the abstract submission should be separated by two hard returns and the elements of the submitting author's contact information should be separated by hard returns, but there should be no other hard returns in the document except as needed between paragraphs in the abstract.

• All text should be left justified, with a ragged right margin; no full justification, no centering of any text.

• Do not include descriptive names preceding the title, author list, or abstract, such as "proposed title," "list of authors," etc.

• Do not use any formatting, such as bold, italic, or underlined text.

• The document should be single spaced.

A properly formatted abstract will look like this (titles and names are fictionalized):

The rise and fall of managed care

Alice Smith (ABC University), John Adams (XYZ University), John Smith (Consulting Corporation)

Abstract text here.

Submitting author:
John Adams
XYZ University
Phone number
e-mail address

2. Your abstract should not exceed 500 words. This limit pertains only to the abstract text, not the title, author list, etc.

3. You may submit multiple abstracts. If you wish to do so, they must be submitted as separate documents in separate e-mails.

4. The deadline for abstract submissions is 11:59 pm eastern time on the specific date mentioned as the deadline in the request for abstracts. No exceptions will be allowed, and abstracts submitted after this time will not be considered.

5. You may use a "structured abstract" approach if that is appropriate, but this is not necessary.

6. Your abstract must be submitted as an editable word processing file, such as Word; we cannot accept PDFs.

7. Please make sure to include a proper document extension on your filename, such as .doc or .docx for Word documents, since we cannot easily open documents with no extension.

8. Your document should be "clean," meaning no track changes or comment bubbles visible.

9. Do not include exhibits (tables, graphs, maps, diagrams, etc.) with your abstract submission.

10. You may include references (these would be included against the 500 word count), but please do not use "auto numbering" features of your word processing software. You must manually enter the callouts and references.

11. No edits or revisions to your abstract will be permitted subsequent to submission unless they are requested by a member of the editorial staff.

12. The authors listed at the time the abstract is submitted does not restrict you from changing the author list at a later date, following completion of our review.

13. We will acknowledge receipt of all abstract submissions and will notify all authors of accepted abstracts of our decision; depending on volume, we may not be able to notify authors of decisions to decline. If you have not heard from us, please feel free to contact us.

14. Abstracts that do not follow the guidance above will be returned to the author and will only be considered if returned properly formatted by the deadline. Health Affairs cannot be held responsible for submission that miss the deadline due to deviations from style requirements.