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Smisha Agarwal, PhD

  • Assistant Professor

Departmental Affiliations

Contact Information

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PhD, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2017
MBA, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, 2009
MPH, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 2009
BDS, Maharashtra University, 2005


My research is aimed at improving maternal and newborn health in low-income settings through strengthening community health systems and leveraging innovative technological solutions. Over the last decade, I have developed methods for evaluating programs that employ digital tools such as mobile phones for health service delivery. I have also led a series of systematic Cochrane reviews that have been leveraged by the WHO to develop global guidelines on the use of digital tools to strengthen health services. I continue to work with bilateral and multilateral agencies to support development and implementation of routine health information systems.

Specifically, my research is focused on- 1. The effectiveness of the use of digital devices by community health workers as decision-aids to improve delivery of primary health care services, especially for mothers and infants; 2. Using predictive analytics and machine learning algorithms based on routine monitoring data to enhance our understanding of quality of care, create safety nets to care for high-risk populations and improve effectiveness of reproductive health services; 3.Use of social media websites and data to understand health patterns and behaviors.

Currently, I am working in collaboration with the Population Council, and colleagues at Pathfinder International (Uganda) and Zanmi Lasante (Haiti) to conduct a multi-country study using discrete choice experiments to understand incentive preferences of community health workers in Kenya, Bangladesh, Uganda and Haiti.

Honors and Awards

Delta Omega- Alpha Chapter inductee (2018)

Best research award at the 22nd International AIDS Society Annual Conference by the International AIDS Society HIV Co-Infections and Co-Morbidities Initiative (IAS TB/HIV) to the MEASURE Evaluation team (2018)

Future Faculty Fellowship Program, University of North Carolina (2016-2017)

Population Reference Bureau Policy Communication Fellow (2016-2018)

Carolina Population Center Traineeship- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) (2014-2017)

Triangle Global Health Emerging Leader Award finalist (2015)

UNC-FHI360 Fellowship (2014-2015)

Harvard Asian American Alumni Summit Elevate Pitch Competition. Top 6 semi-finalist in Social Enterprise (healthcare) section (2010)

Eskridge Family Student Support Fund (JHSPH) (2009)

Johns Hopkins School of Public Health MPH Field Award to conduct independent research in Bangladesh (2008-2009)

  • digital health
  • mhealth
  • neonatal health
  • maternal health
  • community health worker
  • cochrane reviews
  • impact evaluation

Select publications

  • Agarwal S, LeFevre AE, Lee J, L’Engle K, Mehl G, Sinha C, Labrique A. Guidelines for reporting of health interventions using mobile phones: mobile health (mHealth) evidence reporting and assessment (mERA) checklist. Bmj. 2016 Mar 17;352:i1174.
  • Agarwal S, Perry HB, Long LA, Labrique AB. Evidence on feasibility and effective use of mH ealth strategies by frontline health workers in developing countries: systematic review. Tropical medicine & international health. 2015 Aug;20(8):1003-14.
  • Agarwal S, Labrique A. Newborn health on the line: the potential mHealth applications. Jama. 2014 Jul 16;312(3):229-30.
  • Agarwal S, Lasway C, L’Engle K, Homan R, Layer E, Ollis S, Braun R, Silas L, Mwakibete A, Kudrati M. Family planning counseling in your pocket: a mobile job aid for community health workers in Tanzania. Global Health: Science and Practice. 2016 Jun 20;4(2):300-10.
  • Agarwal S, Tamrat T, Glenton C, Lewin S, Henschke N, Maayan N, Fønhus MS, Mehl GL. Decision?support tools via mobile devices to improve quality of care in primary healthcare settings. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2018(2)