[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.


Answers to frequently asked questions

1. Your abstract should not exceed the limit indicated in the specific request for abstracts that you are responding to—this is typically 500 words, but it may be shorter. This limit pertains only to the abstract text, not the title, author list, etc.

2. You may submit multiple abstracts. If you wish to do so, they must be entered as separate submissions in the online system.

3. 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.

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

5. You must submit your abstract in the form provided in our submission system. We cannot accept files, attachments, etc., and we cannot accept e-mail submissions.

6. We recommend that you not include references in the abstract submission.

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

8. We will acknowledge receipt of all abstract submissions and will notify all authors of of our decisions—usually within two weeks of the deadline. If you have not heard from us, please feel free to contact us; you may also check on the status of your submission by logging into our online submission portal. If you do not see your submissions following log in, click on the drop down next to your name in the upper right hand corner of the page, then select "my submissions."

9. Abstract submissions that do not comply with our guidelines will not be considered.

10. We consider abstracts with the understanding that the information presented in them has not been published elsewhere, that there is no agreement outstanding to publish the information in the abstract, and that no manuscript based on the abstract is under consideration at another journal. Once an abstract has been submitted, authors should not submit manuscripts based on the abstract to other publications while the abstract/paper is under consideration here.