James Phillips, PhD

  • Professor Emeritus of Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health
  • Special Lecturer in Population and Family Health
Profile Headshot


James F. Phillips is a Professor Emeritus of the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health, Mailman School of Public Health.  As a Professor, he conducted research in Africa for developing evidence-based primary health care program strengthening. Over a career that spanned five decades, he led implementation science initiatives in East and South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, contributed to 232 peer-reviewed publications, and served on technical committees of the WHO Human Reproduction Programme, the WHO Tropical Disease Research Programme, the US National Academy of Sciences, and the World Bank.  In the course of his career, he collaborated in launching international research networks for developing family planning program evaluation, for researching abandonment of female genital mutilation, for researching the scaling-up of health systems innovation, and for coordinating the development and dissemination longitudinal health and demographic research.

He has served as a visiting lecturer at universities in the US, Switzerland, Australia, and Ghana.

Prior to joining the Columbia faculty in 2007, he was a Population Council Senior Associate engaged in implementation research advisory roles in Asia and Africa which included a two-year assignment as a visiting lecturer in demography at the University of the Philippines and six years as a resident Scientist at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh.  He conducted recurrent advisory roles on reproductive and child health service research in Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Jordan, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Ghana.

Academic Appointments

  • Professor Emeritus of Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health
  • Special Lecturer in Population and Family Health

Administrative Titles

  • Member, Columbia Population Research Center

Credentials & Experience

Education & Training

  • BS, 1967 University of Michigan
  • MSc, 1972 University of Hawaii
  • PhD, 1980 University of Michigan

Committees, Societies, Councils

Commission on COVID-19, Journal of Global Health Science, Member, May 8, 2020- present

Strategic Advisory Committee, The National Program for Strengthening the Implementation of the Community-based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) Initiative in Ghana: CHPS+, Ghana Health Service, June 2016-August 2018.

Science Advisory Group, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, Member, April, 2014- May 2022.

International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, Chair, Committee on Family Planning and Fertility (January 1987-December 1993).

Committee on Population, National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC, 1985-89. Member

Canadian Mission to the Population and Health Project Number 3, World Bank, Bangladesh
Member,. January 1984-June 1987

Advisory Council of the Women’s Health and Education Centre (WHEC), Member, June, 2007-present. 

Comité Consultatif Scientifique (Science Advisory Committee), Université de Ouagadougou Observatoire de Population de Ouagadougou (OPO), Institut Superieur des Sciences de la Population, January 2007- 2013.Technical Advisory Group of the Saving Newborn Lives Program, Save the Children, Member, October, 2006-September, 2011.

Consortium Advisory Group (CAG), Strengthening Evidence for Programming on Unintended Pregnancy (STEP-UP), Population Council, 2011-2016.

ExCHANGE-Africa: Expanding Community Health Care Accessibility Network in Africa, May, 2005-2007:  Member, Founding Steering Committee.

ExpandNet: Network for Expanding Innovations in Reproductive and Child Health, March 2003 – present:   Member, Founding Steering Committee. 

INTACT: International Network to Analyze, Communicate and Transform the Campaign Against Female Genital Cutting, April 2002, Member, Founding Steering Committee. 

INDEPTH: An International Network of field sites with continuous Demographic
Evaluation of Populations and Their Health in developing countries, 1997-1998:  Member, Founding Steering Committee. 2002 – 2012, Member, Science Advisory Committee.

Community-based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) Initiative, Ghana Health Service, January, 2000- December 2007: Member, Office of the Director General Steering Committee. 

The World Health Organization, January 2000 – October 2002:  Member, International Committee for Vaccine Safety Research, Tropical Disease Research Programme.

The International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, Chair, Committee on Fertility and Family Planning (April 1995 – August 2001):  Member, Committee on the Comparative Analysis of Family Planning and Fertility (April 1986 – July 1989).

Population Council, September 1991 – March 2008:  Member, Editorial Committee, Studies in Family Planning.

Association for Voluntary Surgical Contraception (EngenderHealth), January 1989 – 1995, Member, Science Committee.

World Health Organization, February 1985 – January 1989:  Member, Task Force on Social and Behavioural Determinants of Fertility Regulation, Human Reproduction Programme.

United States National Academy of Sciences, January 1987 – November 1989:  Member, Committee on Population, National Research Council.

The International Committee for Applied Research on Population, September 1972 – May 1975

American Public Health Association
Bangladesh Population Association
Canadian Population Society
Canadian Society for International Health
Federation of Canadian Demographers
International Union for the Scientific Study of Population
Population Association of America
Public Health Association of New York City
Society for Family Planning
Union for African Population Studies

Editorial Boards

Editorial Advisor, BioMed Central Health Services Research, August, 2019- present.Editorial Board, Journal of Global Health Science, February, 2019-present.
Associate Editor, BioMed Central Health Services Research, December, 2016-July, 2019.
Associate Editor, PLoS Medicine, November, 2016-present.
Editorial Board ‘Health Services Research in Low and Middle Income Settings’ section of BioMed Central Health Services Research, 2013- 2019.
Editorial Board, Global Health: Science and Practice, January 2012-January 2022.
Editorial Board, African Population Studies, Member, February, 2008-present.
Editorial Committee, Studies in Family Planning, September, 1988- November, 2007.

Honors & Awards

The 2004 Office of Population and Reproductive Health, Bureau for Global Health, of the USAID/Washington Research, Technology, and Utilization Division, Office of Population and Reproductive Health Marjorie C. Horn Operations Research Award for Excellence in Implementation of Operations and Program Research and Utilization of Research Results for Program Improvement.

The 2006 Presidential Excellence Awards, Republic of Ghana, Ministry for Public Sector Reform:

  • Excellence in Partnerships for international support of the Ghana Health Service.
  • Excellence in Innovation for support of the Policy Planning Monitoring and Evaluation Division, Ghana Health Service and the Population Council for Research Leading to the Community-based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) Initiative. 

The 2010 Outstanding Support Award of the INDEPTH Network for outstanding contribution to the International Network of field sites with continuous Demographic Evaluation of Populations and Their Health in developing countries (INDEPTH) and the INDEPTH Scientific Advisory Committee.

The 2013 Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring,

The 2020 Carl S. Schultz Award for Lifetime Achievement in Reproductive Health Research, American Public Health Association.

The 2021 Biennial Robert J. Lapham Award for Demographic Research Contributing to Policy, Population Association of America.


Researching the determinants of research utilization can have transformative effects on the contribution of science to improving reproductive and child health program coverage and service quality in resource constrained settings of Asia and Africa.

At the Mailman School, Dr. Phillips was the founding Director of Advancing Research on Comprehensive Health Systems (ARCHeS), a program for developing evidence based strategies for improving primary health care program functioning. He was Principal Investigator of the Connect Project of the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania, the Ghana Essential Health Intervention Programme (GEHIP), and a project known as Mobile Technology for Community Health (MoTeCH) that developed mobile telephone information systems and tested the maternal and child health impact of cellphone augmented health services in northern Ghana.  He was the founding Principal Investigator of a five year collaborative initiative known as a National Program for Strengthening the Implementation of the Community-based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) Initiative in Ghana: CHPS+, an implementation research partnership of the Ghana Health Service, the University of Ghana Regional Institute for Population Studies, and Columbia University for testing the replication and scale-up of GEHIP in the Volta and Northern Regions of Ghana. 

Research Interests

  • Demography
  • Experimental Studies
  • Global Health
  • Implementation Science
  • Longitudinal Health Systems Research
  • Maternal and Child Health

Selected Publications

Awoonor-Williams, John Koku and James F. Phillips. 2022. “Developing organizational learning for scaling-up community-based primary health care in Ghana.” Learning Health Systems. 6:e10282:1-16. https://doi.org/10.1002/lrh2.10282

Phillips, James F., Bruce B. MacLeod, and S. Patrick Kachur. 2021. Bugs in the bed: Addressing the contradictions of embedded science with agile implementation research.‚ Global Health: Science and Practice 9(1):1-23. https://doi.org/10.9745/GHSP-D-20-00169

Phillips, James F., John Koku Awoonor-Williams, Ayaga A. Bawah, Belinda Afriyie Nimako, Nicholas S. Kanlisi, Mallory C. Sheff, Elizabeth F. Jackson, Patrick O. Asuming, Adriana Biney, and Pearl Kyei. 2018. What do you do with success? The science of scaling up a health systems strengthening intervention in Ghana. BioMed Central, Health Services Research, 18(1):484 DOI: 10.1186/s12913-018-3250-3.

Phillips, James F. 2018. Biafra at 50 and the birth of emergency public health.‚ American Journal of Public Health 108(6):731-733, doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2018.304420.

Phillips, James F., Mallory C. Sheff, Christopher B. Boyer. The astronomy of health systems literature in Africa during the MDG era: where are the systems clusters? Global Health: Science and Practice. 2015;3(3):482-502. http://dx.doi.org/10.9745/GHSP-D-15-00034.

Ramsey, Kathryn, Ahmed Hingora, Malick Kante, Elizabeth Jackson, Amon Exavery, Senga Pemba, Fatuma Manzi, Colin Baynes, Stephane Helleringer, James F. Phillips. 2013. The Tanzania Connect Project: A cluster-randomized trial of the child survival impact of adding paid community health workers to an existing facility-focused health system, BioMed Central Health Services Research, 13 (Supplement 2):S6 doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-S2-S6.

Phillips, James F., Elizabeth F. Jackson, Ayaga A. Bawah, Bruce MacLeod, Philip Adongo, Colin D, Baynes. 2012. The long term fertility impact of the Navrongo Project in northern Ghana, Studies in Family Planning 43(3):175-190.

Phillips, James F., Tanya C. Jones, Frank K. Nyonator, and Shruti Ravikumar. 2007. Evidence-based scaling up of health and family planning service innovations in Bangladesh and Ghana, in Ruth Simmons, Peter Fajans and Laura Ghiron (eds.). Scaling Up Health Service Delivery: From Pilot Innovations to Policies and Programmes, World Health Organization, Geneva, pp 113-134.

Phillips, J., Bawah, A., Binka, F. Accelerating reproductive and child health programme impact: The Navrongo Experiment in Ghana Bulletin of the World Health Organization 84 949-955 2006

Nyonator, F., Awoonor-Williams, J., Phillips, J., Jones, T., Miller, R. The Ghana Community-based Health Planning and Services Initiative: Fostering evidence-based organizational change and development in a resource-constrained setting Health Policy and Planning 20(1) 25-34 200

Global Health Activities

Research on the demographic and health impact of health systems innovations in country settings of East and South Asia, West Africa, and East and Southern Africa.

Senior Advisor, Community-based Health Planning and Services: Provided advisory support to the Navrongo Community Health and Family Planning Project, a program of mobilizing social traditions for supporting community health services in a northern Ghanaian district. Collaborated with the Ghana Health Service on a program of evidence-based scaling up of the Navrongo project.

The Ghana Essential Health Intervention Program: Coordinates a study of the child survival impact of health systems development innovations in Ghana

The Connect Project, Ifakara Health Institute, Tanzania: Conducted a randomized cluster trial of the child survival impact of community-based primary health care in rural Tanzania.