Abigail Greenleaf, PhD

  • Assistant Professor of Population and Family Health (in ICAP) at the CUMC
Profile Headshot


Dr. Abigail (Abba) Greenleaf is a public health demographer whose research focuses on collecting data in low- and middle-income countries where using cell phones to survey populations is an increasingly viable methodology. In the United States, phone-based surveys have been common since the 1980s. In areas such as Africa, until recently there was not sufficient cell phone ownership to create valid phone-based health estimates, and researchers like Dr. Greenleaf have been assessing the reliability of this increasingly popular approach to data collection. 

Dr. Greenleaf currently works with ICAP's Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (PHIA) project. Carried out under the leadership of national ministries of health, PHIA data benchmark a country's progress towards controlling the HIV epidemic. Dr. Greenleaf enjoys this rigorous research because it is efficient, cost-effective and produces high-quality data that can inform targeted policies and programs. As COVID-19 epidemic restraints slowed progress with the PHIA project in several countries, Dr. Greenleaf became part of a team that quickly catalyzed PHIA data and participants in Lesotho to begin a phone-based surveillance system for coronavirus-like symptoms. This real-time data creates weekly estimates infection levels for the national ministry of health. 

After a public health class in college introduced her to the field, Dr. Greenleaf joined the Peace Corps to understand public health in a global context, and she spent two years in Cameroon. She then pursued an MPH at Columbia and after she worked for Centers for Disease Control as an Allan Rosenfield Global Health Fellow in Ethiopia and Cameroon. She earned her PhD in the Population, Family and Reproductive Health Department at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health before coming back to Columbia. In addition to her research, Dr. Greenleaf spends a portion of her time teaching. She co-teaches ""Research Design and Data Collection"" for public health graduate students and she mirrors her own educational path by co-teaching an undergraduate class, ""Data Science and Health Equity in New York City"". The undergraduates learn how to use data science to unpack health inequities in New York City.

Academic Appointments

  • Assistant Professor of Population and Family Health (in ICAP) at the CUMC

Credentials & Experience

Education & Training

  • BS, 2007 George Washington University
  • MPH, 2012 Columbia University
  • PhD, 2019 Johns Hopkins University

Honors & Awards

2018 - American Association for Public Opinion Research DC Chapter: Student Paper Competition Winner -

2016 - Laurie Schwab Zabin Award for Population and Family Planning Students

2016 - Edward J. Dehne Award in Population Dynamics


Research Interests

  • Biostatistical Methods
  • Global Health
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Maternal and Reproductive Health

Selected Publications

Greenleaf AR, Mwima G, Lethoko M, Conkling M, Keefer G, Chang C, et al. Participatory Surveillance of COVID-19 in Lesotho via Weekly Calls: Protocol for Cell Phone Data Collection. JMIR Res Protoc. 2021 Sep 27;10(9):e31236.

Greenleaf AR, Gadiaga A, Guiella G, Turke S, Battle N, Ahmed S, Moreau C. Comparability of modern contraceptive use estimates between a face-to-face survey and a cellphone survey among women in Burkina Faso. 2020. PLoS ONE 15(5):e0231819. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0231819

Greenleaf AR, Gadiaga A, Choi Y, Guiella G, Turke S, Battle N, Ahmed S, Moreau C. Automated and Interviewer-Administered Mobile Phone Surveys in Burkina Faso: Sociodemographic Differences Among Female Mobile Phone Survey Respondents and Nonrespondents JMIR Mhealth Uhealth 2020;8(7):e17891) doi:10.2196/17891

Greenleaf AR, Turke SR, Bazie F, Sawadogo N, Guiella G, Moreau C. Interviewing the Interviewers: Perceptions of Interviewer-Respondent Familiarity on Survey Process and Error in Burkina Faso. 2020. Field Methods (1-18): https://doi.org/10.1177/1525822X20981493

Pariyo GW, Greenleaf AR, Gibson DG, Ali J, Selig H, Labrique AB, et al. Does mobile phone survey method matter? Reliability of computer-assisted telephone interviews and interactive voice response non-communicable diseases risk factor surveys in low and middle income countries. 2019. PLoS ONE 14(4): e0214450.

Greenleaf AR, Ahmed S, Moreau C, Guiella G, Choi Y. 2018. Cell Phone Ownership and Modern Contraceptive use in Burkina Faso: Implications for Research and Interventions using Mobile Technology. Contraception, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.contraception.2018.11.006

Greenleaf AR, Gibson DG, Khattar C, Labrique AB, Pariyo GW. Building the Evidence Base for Remote Data Collection in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Comparing Reliability and Accuracy Across Survey Modalities. J Med Internet Res. 2017;19(5): e140. https://www.jmir.org/2017/5/e140/pdf

Global Health Activities

Population-based HIV Impact Assessment Survey (PHIA)