icddr,b alumnus and member of its Scientific Advisory Group Professor James F. Phillips awarded 2021 Robert J. Lapham Award

An icddr,b scientific advisory group (SAG) member, Professor James F. Phillips, has received the 2021 Robert J. Lapham Award from the Population Association of America in recognition of his prolific career investing in building health systems through the design and implementation of rigorous intervention experiments, developing processes by which successful interventions can be scaled up and transformed into policies, playing central roles in developing research and intervention networks, and mentoring scores of young demographers from Asia, Africa, and around the world.

This award honours individualswho have distinguished themselves by their sustained achievements in the following areas: contributions to population research, applications of demographic knowledge to improve the human condition, and service to the population profession. 


Professor James Phillips (R) directed a primary healthcare study in Matlab, Bangladesh. 


In the 1980s, Professor Phillips was the principal investigator of icddr,b’s Matlab Family Planning Health Services Project, where he directed a study that developed and tested methods for improving access to primary healthcare in a rural and impoverished locality of deltaic Bangladesh. When results showed that childhood survival and family planning were improved by programme activities, Professor Phillips engaged in a programme of research and action that was designed to apply research to accelerating the scale-up of community-based primary healthcare in Bangladesh. Known at icddr,b as the MCH-FP Extension Project, strategies developed for that programme have since been used around the world.

In reflecting on his time in Bangladesh, Professor Phillips has noted “Everything that was achieved in Bangladesh was the consequence of effective institutional support and collaboration. I often think of the many lessons that were learned, the most important of which is the need to guide decisions with evidence. I believe that icddr,b has repeatedly demonstrated that pursuing conventional wisdom is not always wise. Solid science, through trial and investigation, is critical to getting the right policies in place and identifying the appropriate actions to pursue. Partnership between the Government of Bangladesh and icddr,b’s research community accounts for much of the progress that has been achieved in health development. It was a great honour to be part of this strategic partnership”.

Professor Phillips is currently an Emeritus Professor of Population and Family Health at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University.